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Lapid housing plan targets Israel's 'next generation'

The plan to reduce housing prices for young couples should earn back Finance Minister Yair Lapid's reputation as an ardent social activist, defending the rights of those who served in the army.
Secretary-General of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Jose Angel Gurria (R) shakes hands with Israel's Finance Minister Yair Lapid at the end of a news conference in Tel Aviv December 8, 2013. The Bank of Israel should prepare for interest rate increases once the global economy returns to normal, the OECD said. REUTERS/Nir Elias (ISRAEL - Tags: POLITICS BUSINESS) - RTX169RL
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A quick look at the Israeli finance minister's calendar for the past few months suffices to understand what is truly engaging Yair Lapid, the chairman of the Yesh Atid Party, these days: preparations for the approval of the zero value added tax (VAT) plan for first-time home buyers.

Lapid, who came out with his surprising plan in mid-March 2014 to push down housing costs, is working to obtain approval for the bill by the end of the Knesset’s summer session in early August. The legislation is facing a potential minefield and has a legal sword hovering above it. It is estimated that petitions would be submitted to the high court, claiming discrimination against Israeli Arabs and the ultra-Orthodox. The set of criteria defining the benefit eligibility — meaning VAT exemption on apartments costing up to NIS 1.6 million ($460,000) — stipulates that it be granted only to those who have served in the military or volunteered for national service.

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