PM Netanyahu expressed Israel’s condolences to the people and government of Norway following the terror attacks. The cabinet also discussed the local housing problem and the construction of a new international airport near Eilat. 

 Cabinet communique


GPO archive photo

(Communicated by the Cabinet Secretariat)

At the Cabinet meeting today (Sunday), 24 July 2011:

1. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made the following remarks:

"On Friday, a shocking murder took place in Norway.  As of now, 92 victims have been identified but the number could rise.  We in Israel completely identify with this disaster and declare our deepest shock over this crime. We have experienced it from other directions and we know the families’ and the nation’s agony. Therefore, I again send the condolences of the state, government and people of Israel to the Norwegian people, state and government.

We are currently witnessing a housing crisis that is finding public expression. The distress is real. We not only identify with it, we identified it years ago and even before I became Prime Minister, I asked a professional committee headed by Yuval Steinitz to prepare a plan to resolve the fundamental problem of the housing market in Israel.

Young people are struggling. Discharged soldiers find themselves with insufficient means. Young couples have nowhere to live because apartments are too expensive. Apartments are too expensive because there are not enough of them. There are not enough apartments because a Government monopoly holds more than 90% of the land in Israel and it is not releasing it. It is not releasing it twice. First of all, it is not releasing it for planning because there are planning committees, the most cumbersome in the western world or nearly so, and it takes five or more years to plan an apartment in Israel. It is not releasing it because when an apartment is planned, in order to market it, there is another cumbersome body, called the Israel Land Administration, which releases it very slowly, at very high prices. It releases few apartments at astronomical prices; therefore, in order to change this, it is necessary to bring about a fundamental change, to break the Government monopoly, to simplify the planning and building committees and to simplify the ILA and change it into a body that markets the land of the state of Israel for the Israeli people.

It has taken us two years to fight for these two changes. Not everyone understood. You remember that when they did not understand, they called it ‘Netanyahu’s porch reform’ but today, this week, we are completing these two major changes – the reform of the ILA and the reform of the planning and building committees. These are genuine answers to the housing crisis but in the meantime the Government has taken important steps in the past two years. First of all, it cancelled the previous Government’s absurd ban on construction in the Dan region. Second, we gave grants worth NIS 100,000 to 28 communities in the periphery.  We are linking the periphery with roads, highways and railways in order to open up additional land and ease the housing crisis in both the center and the periphery.

Of course, we gave various incentives. We will yet give additional incentives to contractors to build apartments quickly and to release apartments – for landlords that are holding them in order to rent as offices or to stand empty – for entry into the market.

As a result of this, today, there are 45,000 apartments this year.  These are new construction starts, almost 50% more than the average in the past decade. This is an important achievement. It is not enough. This week, we will do two major things. One, we will pass the ILA reform and the reform of the planning and building committees, so that the ‘supertanker’ may take off.  It hasn’t yet and this will be the first thing.

The second thing, we will take a series of focused steps in order to help young couples, students and other needy populations in the next 1-1.5 years until the major housing supplements come into force.

I think that the Government – in contrast to previous governments – has acted to bring about major change, the first signs of which we are already seeing in all kinds of economic indicators, but it is clear that our goal is that a young couple and young people in Israel will be able to enter apartments, travel on fast trains or a highway and reach the city centers. This is possible; this will also happen.

I know that what we are saying here is being scoffed at by some but they also scoffed at the major reforms we enacted in the economy and today we see the economic situation. Fixing the distorted socio-economic situation, which stems from Government bureaucracy and monopolies vis-à-vis housing, in planning and in marketing apartments – these solutions will give genuine assistance to the overall housing problem, just as the economic reforms provided solutions for the economy.

Lastly, today, we will decide on building a new airport for Eilat at Timna.  It will be an alternative to Ben-Gurion International Airport and serve as an additional international airport for the State of Israel. It will also be an alternative airport for Eilat. It will free up considerable land in Eilat, provide a solution for the expansion of Eilat and prevent noise and other pollution in the city.  In other words, this is a very important decision. It is part of the steps we are taking to change Eilat and the Negev, including laying a railway to Eilat and widening the Aravah road. We are also checking on the possibility of moving the Eilat port but we haven’t yet decided on it. All of these things are really changing the face of reality in the State of Israel and I think that they attest to the fact that things are changing very rapidly."

2. The Cabinet today approved the construction of a new international airport at Timna. The airport will replace Eilat’s current airport and will thus promote the economic progress of the city by freeing up land for tourism, commerce and housing. Following the decision, civilian use of the airport at Ovda will be halted.

According to the plan, the Airports Authority will finance the construction of the airport and will operate it. The cost of the project is estimated at approximately NIS 1.6 billion. Estimated construction time is approximately three years from the start of work. An estimated 1.5 million passengers are forecast to use the airport, approximately 90% on internal flights.

3. The Cabinet began to discuss the plan to rehabilitate the flora and fauna of the Carmel, following the December 2010 wildfire.  A decision on the issue will be taken at a later meeting after agreement will have been reached on funding the implementation of the plan by the relevant ministries.