ETZ EFRAIM, West Bank — Yamina party leaders on Wednesday introduced their plan to solve Israel’s housing crisis, proposing the construction of over 110,000 new apartments in the northern West Bank that would serve as home to half a million Israelis.
“The Tel Aviv metropolitan area is almost as crowded as Gaza and as expensive as New York,” Yamina chairwoman Ayelet Shaked claimed at an event inaugurating the housing plan in the northern West Bank settlement of Etz Efraim.
Israel has seen skyrocketing housing prices over the past 15 years, which the government has attempted to rein in while keeping the real estate market from experiencing a sudden steep drop. Nearly half of the Israeli population lives in the broader Tel Aviv metropolitan area, while another 450,000 reside in the West Bank.
“The different magic tricks we’ve seen in recent years haven’t worked. The solution is simple: to lower prices you must increase supply,” the former justice minister said.
Yamina’s plan would see the construction, within five years, of 113,000 housing units on roughly 8,650 acres of what Israel has declared to be state land in the northern West Bank, between the cities of Rosh Ha’ayin and Ariel.
The proposal would offer four-room apartments for NIS 965,000 ($269,420) each, in contrast to what the party said was an average of NIS 1.7 million ($482,222) to purchase such a home in the Tel Aviv area.
Yamina’s No. 3 candidate, Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich, boasted that by combining “ideology with practicality” the plan would help “erase the Green Line” dividing Israel from the West Bank.
Chiming in, Yamina No. 2 candidate, Education Minister Rafi Peretz, said he was working to ensure that more students and soldiers pay visits to the West Bank to “get in touch with their roots.”
Blasting the plan, the left-wing Democratic Camp charged in a statement that “Shaked and Smotrich have decided to turn the entire population into settlers. Not only [do they want] religious coercion in the education system, but they want to transfer the citizens of the state to live in the settlements where they can re-educate them in the laws of halacha.”
The Peace Now settlement watchdog said, “Instead of investing in unnecessary settlements and harming the prospect of peace, the State of Israel should focus on addressing actual distress and on strengthening the periphery communities in the Negev and the Galilee.”
Here's a map of Yamina's plan to create a 1/2 million bloc in the West Bank. We thought to just photoshop in one detail for Israeli voters considering their idea: the Green Line.
Again, these ideologues prefer to divert vast sums away from the periphery & toward the settlements. https://t.co/FC87jMeXEe
— Peace Now (@peacenowisrael) August 21, 2019
Simona Weinglass contributed to this report.