Housing crisis can be solved by building in Judea and Samaria, says Sovereignty Movement leader

A panel at an economic conference Sunday agreed that prices would drop precipitously if the Eastward Ho! plan is adopted.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Building in Judea and Samaria is the solution for the housing crisis in Israel, according to the Sovereignty Movement and a panel of experts who spoke at the Besheva-Israel National News Economic Conference Sunday.

Nadia Matar, Sovereignty Movement co-head, summarized the plan, Eastward Ho!, in an interview with The Jerusalem Post’s Hadassah Chen after presenting it at the conference.

“The main topic that interests the Israeli people is the fact that they can’t buy an apartment for their children,” she said. The group therefore commissioned a professional study led by economist Dr. Amatzia Samkai, which found that over the last decade, the price of housing went up 100%, due to large demand and not enough supply.

“Our researchers found that we need to build 25,000 units a year in order to lower the prices,” she said. Building that number in Samaria, which lies “30 kilometers from Tel Aviv,” the place where most Israelis want to live “because that is where the work is,” she noted, would reduce the cost of housing in the region by a whopping 35-45%.

There are 100 kilometers of “empty land” in Samaria, Matar said, which equals the land area of greater Tel Aviv.

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“That’s why we’re at the conference,” said the long-time Land of Israel activist. “To show the people that the land of Israel is not only ideology, it’s not Messianism. The land of Israel is practicality.

“We are here to live…. We have to buy land, develop it, and the best way to bring sovereignty is by building hundreds of thousands of housing units in Judea and Samaria – and understanding that Judea and Samaria is not a problem, it’s the answer.”

Many politicians from several parties support the plan, she noted.

“We have the signature of over 60 Knesset members who commit in a letter that if and when there will be a right-wing government, they will promote this plan of moving eastward [into Judea and Samaria],” Matar told Chen.

Real estate experts on the panel went even further than Matar regarding both the size of the problem and the benefits of the solution she offered.

Eran Rawls, CEO of the Center for Israel Construction, said, “We are losing our children to other countries. A large Israeli community has sprung up in Cyprus because with a half-hour flight, they can live at a quarter of the cost of the outskirts of Tel Aviv.”

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He also noted that the solution found by young families, to rent instead of buy, was also becoming untenable, as “in the past year, rent for an apartment increased by thirty percent,” and in some places, 40%.

Blaming in part government policy, when “65% of the cost of a new apartment goes to the state through the cost of land, VAT, taxes, etc.,” he said that there could be serious ramifications for the future of the country.

“The current reality will cause a decline in the birth rate, families will be smaller. This will have an effect on the ability to educate the children.”

Aharoni Neubauer. CEO of the Gush Etzion Development Company, in turn blamed the Civil Administration for the lack of a housing supply, saying that the government group in charge of Judea and Samaria “does not release lands for continued building and expansion, which leads to a rise in costs.”

Neubauer noted that still, “many industrial centers” have moved to the region, and that a turn to the east helps with other problems that commuters to the congested center contend with, such as hours wasted in traffic jams, and air pollution.

The Sovereignty Movement was born in 2011, when Matar’s partner, Yehudit Katsover, won over the activists of their organization, Women for Israel’s Tomorrow, with the contention that the Right had to have its own positive proposal for the region.

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Her thinking, Matar told Chen, was that “We cannot win the battle for Judea and Samaria if we only fight for a hill here and a hill there. It’s very important but it’s like taking out the sea with a spoon…. The Left has a plan, we oppose their plan, the two-state solution … [and] the majority of the Jewish people know it’s suicide, but what do we present?”

Fully applying Israeli law over Judea and Samaria, instead of just saying ‘no’ to the other side, is her answer. Over the years, Matar said, the idea of sovereignty has slowly become the “consensus” of the nationalist camp.