JERUSALEM (Jul. 16)
Foreign Minister David Levy has accused his Cabinet colleagues of failing to defend him against a growing wave of “base and baseless attacks” on his 10-year record as minister of construction and housing.
Levy made a bitter personal statement Sunday at the weekly Cabinet meeting. Political gossip and newspaper articles have pointed to Levy as the man responsible for the present dearth of housing for young couples and the growing numbers of Soviet immigrants.
There is speculation that Ariel Sharon, Levy’s successor at the Housing Ministry — and likely future rival for the Likud leadership — may be encouraging such attacks as “ammunition” that could be used against Levy in future political battles. The two men are seen as rivals to succeed Yitzhak Shamir as party leader.
Levy told his colleagues that his 10 years at the Housing Ministry had been “a life’s work” that had produced a veritable revolution in the national housing situation. Tens of thousands of families had been provided with decent homes for fair prices, he said.
Levy’s aides, deflecting criticism about his role in the current acute housing shortage, said their boss gave substantial advance warning that adequate housing had to be provided for the influx of Soviet olim, but they said his words were ignored.
The crisis has brought hundreds of Israeli families to pitch “tent cities” in urban parks, in protest against skyrocketing rents and mortgages. The aides recalled Levy telling the national unity Cabinet last November that the government’s approval of 3,000 housing units was woefully inadequate, and that tens of thousands would be needed in the months ahead.
WARNED OF A ‘CONFLAGRATION
Levy reportedly had warned that Israel faced “a conflagration –Israeli young couples will, end up sleeping in public parks, and when that happens, you will all point to me as to Brutus.”
But Levy’s critics have cited a series of calm, confident statements emanating from the Housing Ministry over the past year or more, which, they say, contradict these claims.
Yediot Achronot reported over the weekend that Levy’s aides had burned piles of official documents and records on the last night of their minister’s tenure at the Housing Ministry. It cited an unnamed senior official as a source.
Flatly denying this, Uri Oren, Levy’s longtime aide and adviser, termed the accusations against Levy “evil, ignorance and hypocrisy. There is much building under way, and it will produce 60,000 apartments by the end of this budgetary year.
“All the plans and projects that the ministry is announcing now are in fact plans that were prepared under Levy,” Oren said. “And don’t let us forget that under Levy, some 270,000 homes were built in this country.”