Finance Minister Yair Lapid has had to back down, at least partially, from his loud insistence that the proposed Value Added Tax exemption for new homebuyers would be limited to those who served in the military.
The change came after Lapid met with Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein, who informed him that the discriminatory clause would not withstand a legal challenge.
“The attorney general told Lapid that it was critical to preserve equality and recommended leaving the issue of army service open,” said a source who was present at the meeting and requested anonymity.
As a result, it was approved by the housing cabinet with clause in question stating that “entitlement for receiving the benefit for the purposes of this decision will be determined considering the following factors” — which included army service, family status, age and disability.
The last-minute change was an embarrassment for Lapid, who trumpeted the condition as part of his ongoing campaign against the chareidi public.
A day before the housing cabinet met, Lapid stiffly defended his criteria in an interview, saying: “I have no plans to make any changes in the housing program,” he said, adding that if chareidim want to qualify, all they have to do is “to enlist in the IDF or civilian service.”
Chareidim are by no means the only ones excluded by Lapid’s initiative. Arab MKs have also denounced it, since their constituents do not serve in the army.
In addition, experts on Israel’s immigrant community say that about half of them have never served in the army, because they arrived in the country after age 18 for women and 25 for men, making them too old for the draft.
“Lapid throws around slogans, pulls out plans from the hip and doesn’t check them thoroughly before he announces them,” said Alex Tezner, an activist in the Russian-speaking community. “Many of the people who won’t qualify for the benefit would have been very happy to be drafted, but none of them were.”
Immigrant Absorption Minister Sofa Landver, a member of the housing cabinet, has been working quietly behind the scenes to revise the criteria. She said that she had supported the exemption plan on the understanding that Lapid would ensure that immigrants would not face discrimination.
The source who attended the meeting said the final criteria would be formulated within 45 days.