Daily Israel Report

Netanyahu Cancels Poland Trip Amidst Housing Crisis

Prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu cancelled a diplomatic visit to Poland in order to deal with Israel's hot-button housing crisis
By Gabe Kahn.
First Publish: 7/25/2011, 8:18 PM

Netanyahu at Cabinet meeting.
Netanyahu at Cabinet meeting.
Flash 90

 

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu put the economy ahead of diplomacy Monday to deal with Israel's housing crisis.

 

The move - considered rare by observers - was announced by the Prime Minister's Office in a statement saying Netanyahu pushed off his scheduled Warsaw trip to "remain in the country and focus on passing legislation having to do with housing reform, and other steps for students, demobilized soldiers and young couples."

 

One of the purposes of the planned trip, which also included a visit to Hungary, was to continue lobbying EU countries against supporting a Palestinian Authority bid for statehood at the UN in September.

 

But with many key Western states already opposing the PA bid and the US telegraphing the use of its Security Council veto at the world body garnering a "moral minority" of states to offset blowback in the international press has taken a back seat to Israel's growing domestic concerns.

 

Earlier Monday, Netanyahu praised party members for passing housing reform legislation in a joint session of the Knesset Economics and Interior Committees, speaking at a Likud faction meeting on Monday.

 

A joint meeting of the Knesset Economics and Interior Committees passed reforms to the national housing committees, expediting the construction planning process by circumventing bureaucracy.

 

 "Yesterday I asked ministers to carry their weight," the prime minister said, "Today I can say that they did. I am glad progress is being made to improve the housing market in Israel"

 

Netanyahu's cencelled trip comes as Interior Minister Eli Yishai (Shas) called on Knesset speaker Reuven Rivlin (Likud) to cancel parliment's scheduled holiday.

 

"Israel is going through one of the greatest and most difficult periods of crises of its recent history ranging from inflation, to a housing crisis, to a healthcare crisis," Yishai wrote to Rivlin.

 

Yishai added, "thousands of citizens have taken to the streets and are sleeping in city centers, and thousands of patients remain without adequate medical treatment," Yishai added.

 

In light of these circumstances "there is a need for lawmakers to take broad public action, and to hopefully unite, for the cause of the people of Israel."

 

Likud MK Ze'ev Elkin lamented the lack of support in the opposition for the Likud housing reform legislation.

 

"Unfortunately, the opposition didn't behave responsibly [by voting against the housing reform]," he said. Taking a jab at opposition leader Tzipi Livni, Elkin added, "People responsible for the shortage of apartments, including people who [previously served as] housing minister used the debate as a platform for political taunting."