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The Israeli government housing committee is making moves to
reduce property prices and increase the number of rental apartments to the
general public. At face value these are desirable goals. There is, however, a
bogyman in the room.
On 22 May 2013, the Energy and Water Minister, Silvan
Shalom, demanded action on what he called the 12,000 “ghost apartments”
specifically located in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. He was referring to vacation
homes in Israel owned by people living abroad. Mr. Shalom can add the hundreds
more such properties in Netanya, Caesarea, and Herzlia Pituach.
The decline in real estate sales seems to be forcing the
Israeli government to lose touch with reality. Is Mr. Shalom not aware that
many of the “ghost apartments” are owned by people living abroad who are
planning and executing their complicated exit strategy from their mother
countries in order to make a future Aliyah?
They are gradually cutting the Gordian knot consisting of professional,
familial, and social responsibilities in order to come live in Israel. They are
prepared to reduce their living standards and change their lifestyles here in
Israel but they need time to make that move. In the meantime, they have
committed financially by investing hard earned foreign currency into Israel by
buying their dream home here. There is no logical reason why the Israeli
government should turn that dream into the nightmare of ill-advised bureaucracy
that will fail to achieve its illogical goals.
Silvan Shalom poured scorn on people who use their Israeli
properties “sparingly.” The minister’s statement seemed to put these
property owners to shame, inadvertently positioning them as acting immorally
and against the best interests of Israel and Israelis. They are not.
What does he hope to achieve by this? That they will
suddenly rent out their luxury, expensive, homes cheaply to young families?
That he will force them to abandon their investments and sell their pricey,
prime location, properties at vastly reduced prices? Is he not aware that the
majority of people unable to get on to the property ladder will still be unable
to pay the value of these quality homes. Neither will they be able to meet the
mortgage payments for such properties.
In my professional experience local renters will be unable
or unwilling to pay the high monthly Vaad or management fees on these
properties. Usually, they have added facilities and demand a higher standard
level of management care. They tend to be more labor intensive with daily, not
weekly, cleaning of the common parts. Frequently there are facilities such as
swimming pools, gyms, and saunas that require additional costs and expense.
Owners had no intention of renting to strangers when they
took the decision to invest in their ideal home in Israel. They may be used for
their family vacation use. They may be a first step in making their physical
move to Israel, but they want their privacy, they do not want to rent out their
homes, and they should not be punished for it.
Although they bought their homes here for positive and
personally altruistic reasons, not for capital gain, they should not be forced
to jettison their homes, their hopes and dreams in Israel, for the
shortsightedness of the Israeli government.
Barry Shaw is not only the author of ‘Israel Reclaiming the Narrative,’
he is the owner of Netanya Real Estate (www.netanyarealestate.com) with his
Did anyone catch President Obama’s speech on counter
terrorism and national security at Fort McNair? Did anyone care what he said?
Well, one person did. Leftist crazy, Media Benjamin,
repeatedly and confusingly interrupted him to protestingly support the very things that he was advocating. She
sounded as if she was arguing with him while shouting for the things
that he was promoting, namely closing Guantanamo and to stop killing dangerous
terrorists with drone strikes. That’s why Obama, even though he was ruffled by
her rude interruptions, told his audience that she was “worth paying
Apparently, in America, nobody much cared about what he
said. For many it was simply a smokescreen to cover up the dire consequences of
the revelations that are haunting the Obama Administration. Bengazi refuses to
go away. The appalling definition of the Islamic terror attack on the US
Consulate that killed Ambassador Stephens and three other Americans, as being a
response to an amateur video, was shocking in its misinterpretation of what
actually took place, and why. Why would Obama choose to turn a deaf ear to the
desperate appeals of his men under siege and, after their deaths, alongside the
four coffins at Andrews Air Force base, and in front of the families of the
murdered men, reconfirm their murder as the fault of a video when they knew
what had really transpired? I found the sight of President Obama and Hillary
Clinton affirming this lie at such a time highly shameful. This was a cover up,
and they were in denial.
Obama has more recently been in denial over a number of
scandals ranging from the IRS investigation into media outlets such as Fox News
and political groups unsavory to his regime, to the seizure of phone records
belonging to Associated Press journalists, and to Eric Holder, the US Attorney
General appointed by Obama, caught lying about not knowing about these
unconstitutional measure, and then having his signature on the authorizing
document exposed to the public by the media. He did this under oath and, if
proven, he could face serious criminal charges for perjury.
In all cases, the wagons circled to protect the president.
He knew nothing of any of these critical incidents, we are led to believe. And
now his conference on counter-terrorism, in which he droned about drones and
muffled on for an hour in a contradictory message that had many scratching
their heads. Why did he face the cameras, at this time, to talk not about the
crisis facing his Administration but to give an ill-prepared speech on
counter-terrorism? To many, Obama is the cover-up president and this address
was a cover-up tactic to create smoke and mirrors in a vain effort to distract
the press and the public away from the scandals that are rocking his White
House. He hoped the resurrection of his oath to close Gitmo, the Guantanamo
detention center, would hit the papers and TV channels and take the heat out of
the unlawful and covert investigations of his rivals. It clearly did not work.
He tried to claim that he intended to move many of the
remaining Gitmo prisoners to foreign lands. What he failed to tell the American
public that over 30% of Gitmo prisoners who had been transferred overseas have
returned to terrorism –and these were the soft cases. The hardened terrorists
are the ones that have been kept in Gitmo lock-down.
Obama claimed the cost-efficiency of moving high profile
terrorists into top security facilities in mainland America but these are
civilian jails and Gitmo is a military prison. Where should terrorists be
incarcerated, in a civilian, or a military, holding facility? He claimed that
no one ever escaped from a top security
jail, but no one has ever escaped from Gitmo either. And here’s another reason
to maintain Guantanamo. America is bound to need Gitmo in the future as more Islamic
terrorists are caught killing Americans within America and worldwide. Believe me
when I say that I regret this truth, but it is a truth that cannot be denied. And
here we come to the crux of the Obama speech.
Here are some of his confusing soundbites. He praised the
effective use of drones but then gave his presidential seal on the reduced use
of drones in the future. His refusal to allow the current pattern of drone
strikes was couched in human rights language but he acknowledged that drones
had decimated the enemy and taken out the top leadership of major terror
groups. It is clear that the surgical ability of drones reduces collateral
damage to a minimum and their use is made where boots on the ground is not
feasible and their use saves American soldiers lives. Yet he intends to limit
their use. Mark that one up for the terrorists, who can now breathe a sigh of
Obama said that the war on terror is nearing its end. That’s
because he wants it to end, not because the terror threat to America and the
West has been curtailed. It hasn’t. Osama Bin Laden has been removed but the
top leadership of Al Qaida is still in place. Bin Laden’s capable right-hand
man, and now Al-Qaida Number One, Ayman al-Zawahiri, is alive and well and
still coordinating and inspiring a new breed of Islamic terrorists. New
recruits are still making their way to Pakistan and Afghanistan for training
before heading home, or to other battlefields, to practice their new-found
skills. They have spread their terror across the Middle East and into the heart
of Africa, and they are popping up with increasing regularity in America,
Britain, and mainland Europe. Yet, Obama says the war on terror is reaching its
end. Mark that one up to the terrorists who seem to have fooled the American
Ears pricked up when Obama made glancing references to “violent
jihad” but he went into appeasement mode by denying that “violent jihad”
had anything to do with Islam. Yet
another victory lap for Islamic terrorists. The West, led by America’s
president, has their collective liberal heads buried in the sand.
Obama was in denial when his ambassador and other Americans
were gunned down in Bengazi, the term “Islamic terrorism” has been
expunged from official language, “violent jihad” has nothing to do with
campaign for Islamic global supremacy. Closing Guantanamo is actually closing
our eyes to the truth. Send the terrorists away somewhere where we can’t see
them or deal with them. Drones are an effective weapon against those who want
to kill us, but we must stop their use. Pretend people hate us because one
stupid guy made a video. It sounds better than scaring the public that people
actually do hate us for what we are, and what we represent, and they are
prepared to kill us for it.
Obama has a theory that I cannot get my head around. It goes
like this. Fighting extremist radical Islamic terror encourages even more Islamic
terror against us. Therefore, encourage non-Islamic leaders to take up the
fight against Islamic extremism. If this was true, why did Obama throw Mubarak
of Egypt under the bus? America, under Obama, may not think of itself at war
with Islam, but radical Islam is definitely at war with America.
I also cannot get my head around the glorification and
placation of Islam as Islamic terrorists continue to strike against American,
Israeli, and European targets. It equates, as Barry Rubin reminded us in his
article, “Obama’s Seven Premises about Islamist Terrorism and Revolution”, that
when the Allies waged war against Germany we did not go into battle singing the
praises of Mozart, hamburgers, and other achievements of German culture. So,
why do we harp on about what a wonderful peaceful religion the Muslims have,
even as they chop us down in Boston, Tel Aviv, Woolwich, Nairobi, Syria, Lebanon,
Sudan, Bengazi, Bulgaria, etc., etc… you get the picture. First win the battle,
then tell them how much you love them. We can now tell Germans what great
football teams they have. We didn’t do that between 1938-45, and rightly so.
Obama is the cover-up president. He covers his eyes and ears
to the true face of terror. He covers up the effective use of precise weaponry
targeting terrorists. He covers up the trail when the results of his
dysfunctional policies based on wishful thinking comes tumbling down around
him. Up to now he has been aided and abetted by an adoring media, but that
seems to coming to an end as much of the leftist media are belatedly beginning
to speak out against the mismanagement and potential crimes of the Obama
Stephen Hawkings decided to join an academic boycott of
Israel uniquely at the same time as Israeli scientists, together with colleagues
from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, discovered a planet
outside of the solar system. The astronomers at Tel Aviv University named it
the ‘Einstein Planet.’ Such is the meaning of scientific cooperation to
which Stephen Hawkings, it seems, has lost the plot.
He turned down an invitation to be a special guest at the
Presidents Conference in Jerusalem hosted by President Shimon Peres, a tireless
worker for peace and reconciliation with the Palestinians.
Hawkings chose to cave into pressure from Palestinian
academics and to boycott an event which, perversely, will have the presence of leading
members of the Palestinian Authority. In other words, Hawkings has decided to
boycott an Israeli event in support of Palestinian activists in which Palestinian
leaders will participate. You couldn’t make that up.
When people like Hawkings choose to end all contacts with
their Israeli academic counterparts it is the time when academia becomes dogma.
When scholars and teachers choose to close their ears and their minds they are
no longer academia. They have adopted dogma.
For Israelis, such a boycott that turns the Jewish State,
and only Israel, into an international pariah has echoes in the dark days of
Nazi Germany when Jews, and only Jews, were targeted for such academic boycotts
on trumped up charges as a prelude to worse events that lay in wait for them.
The Holocaust did not start with death camps. It began with academic boycotts
and the banning and burning of Jewish books.
So it is today. Can anyone doubt that the ultimate aim of
the boycotters, the BDS Movement, the ‘Free
Palestine’ activists, and the Palestinian leadership itself, is not the ultimate
destruction of Israel? This is the camp into which Stephen Hawkings finds
If Hawkings has studied the issue in any depth, and
compared Israeli and Palestinian academia, he will find one filled with wondrous
discoveries giving universal benefits to the world, and the other filled with
study books crammed with denial of Israel’s right to exist, incitement,
Anti-Semitism, hate, and a fictional drafting of a false history. Is this the
type of academia that Hawkings really advocate? Does he genuinely support that
kind of Palestinian teaching over sound and beneficial Israeli research?
Is he not aware of the ongoing cooperation between Israelis
and Palestinians in medicine, water, agriculture, and many other fields?
Probably not. It has been kept from him, as it is kept from the attention of
the general public, by the false narrative of an isolated Palestinian society
blocked off by a brutal Israeli blockage.
At the time of Hawkings’ boycott announcement, the
Palestinian Minister of Health was leading a delegation to Israel’s Hadassah
Hospital to promote the increased employment of Palestinian medical staff and
to examine further cooperation between the hospital and the Palestinian
Ministry of Health.
If Hawkings was truly devoted to the anti-Israel boycott
cause he should take a leaf out of a chapter in my book ‘Israel Reclaiming
the Narrative’. The chapter is aptly called ‘If You Are Going To Boycott
Israel, Do It Properly.’ As many have already suggested, Hawkings should
dispense with the Intel chip that is the main source of his ability to
communicate with the world. It was developed in Israel.
Boycott that, Hawkings, or be considered a hypocrite. You
are certainly no longer an academic, for when academics adopt dogma instead of
open minded dialogue it is the closing of the academic mind. It harms the
academic boycotter more than the academic boycotted.
Barry Shaw is the author of ‘Israel Reclaiming the
Narrative’ and is the Special Consultant on Delegitimization Issues to the
Strategic Dialogue Center of the Netanya Academic College in Israel.