Investigation Shows Which Ministers Stood Up for Yesha Residents
So which ministers in the government of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu voted to deny Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria housing benefits extended to hundreds of thousands of Israelis? It took a great deal of effort to find out – but an investigation by Arutz Sheva yielded the information as to who within Netanyahu's government sided with Judea and Samaria residents, and who didn't.
The investigation surrounded an informal “straw poll” that Netanyahu was said to have conducted last week. Last Sunday, the government approved the inclusion of several hundred communities to the list of towns whose residents can receive special benefits when buying a home. The updated list came after criticism last year by High Court judge Dorit Beinisch that the previous list did not include any Arab towns or villages. With the updated list, residents of 91 towns and cities, along with 55 kibbutzim, moshavim, small towns and Arab villages, are now eligible for the benefits.
Eligible residents of cities and local authorities can receive up to NIS 75,000 in a development grant at low, government-subsidized interest rates for the purchase of a home, while residents of kibbutzim, moshavim, small towns and Arab villages can receive up to NIS 150,000 in subsidized loans.
Originally, some 70 towns in Judea and Samaria – including Kiryat Arba, Efrat, Ariel, Beit El, Beitar Ilit, and many others - had been included in the list, but after criticism by leftist groups, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanayahu conducted a telephone poll of ministers, seeking their permission to amend the government decision. As a result, residents will only be able to get the benefits if “political officials” sign off on the requests. The most likely candidate for that job is Defense Minister Ehud Barak, whom Judea and Samaria residents have long accused of doing everything possible to slow Jewish population growth in Judea and Samaria, with his consistent refusal to allow for construction of new homes, building permits, etc.
Arutz Sheva sought to find out which ministers decided in the telephone poll that residents of Judea and Samaria did not deserve the benefits. According to the information discovered, the following ministers told Netanyahu in the phone poll that the benefits should apply to Judea and Samaria residents: Gideon Sa'ar, Limor Livnat, Gilad Erdan, Daniel Hershkowitz, Silvan Shalom, Avigdor Lieberman, Stas Mesheznekov, Yitzchak Aharonovich, Sofa Landver, Yisrael Katz and Uzi Landau. The first four are Likud members and the latter five are from Yisrael Beiteinu, while Hershkowitz is from the Bayit Yehudi party.
Those who voted to deny Judea and Samaria residents the housing benefits included all members of Shas in the government – Eli Yishai, Ariel Atias, Ya'akov Margi, and Meshlam Nahari – as well as Moshe Yaalon who felt it was only a technical issue, Ehud Barak and other current and former Labor ministers.
Likud minister Yossi Peled said he had not been asked his opinion. Yuval Steinitz, Benny Begin, Ya'akov Ne'eman, and Moshe Kachlon did not respond to Arutz Sheva's request for information on how they voted. Minister Yuli Edelstein said that he voted to keep Yesha in but the PM's office misunderstood and said he had abstained.
Sa'ar, who voted against removing the benefits, called on Netanyahu to conduct an open vote on such an important issue. Speaking Saturday night, Hershkowitz said that “with all due respect to the U.S., Israel is not the 51st star on the American flag. It is the right of an independent country to set up its own preference zones without outside interference.”