Israeli Election Focuses on Home Prices Ahead of Housing Report

Rising home prices moved to the forefront of Israel’s election campaign as a government watchdog prepared to release a report that examines the surge in costs, mostly during Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s time in office.

Netanyahu’s opponents are already attacking him on the housing issue before the State Comptroller’s report at 6 p.m. local time on Wednesday. Home prices have risen more than 50 percent since the premier returned to power in 2009, and were one of the reasons that sparked nationwide protests two years later.

“The most dramatic increase in home prices, the situation in which it became impossible for the average person to purchase a home, took place during the period when Netanyahu was prime minister,” said Shelly Yachimovich, a lawmaker with the opposition Labor-led Zionist Union coalition, in an Israel Radio interview on Tuesday.

Polls published over the past week show Netanyahu’s Likud party and the Zionist Union locked in a near dead-heat before the March 17 vote. While both parties will likely fall short of achieving the parliamentary majority needed to form a new government, Netanyahu emerges from the polls as having the best chance to form a coalition with factions sharing his hawkish approach to peace talks with the Palestinians.

Likud politicians are criticizing the State Comptroller for releasing the housing report just weeks before the election.

“This is a crisis that has existed for several years, and through several governments,” Likud Interior Minister Gilad Erdan told Israel Radio. “Given the sensitive timing of the report’s release it could be misused, as you already are hearing the accusations being hurled from side to side.”

The State Comptroller released an e-mailed statement that its work “is guided solely by professional and relevant considerations, and should not be linked in any way to transient political pressures.”

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