Shlomo Eliahu: Housing Is Israel’s Number One Problem December 10, 2012 12:43 pm
The opening plenum of the second day of the “Globes” 2012 Israel Business Conference was packed. First, “Globes” editor-in-chief Hagai Golan announced the “Globes” Person of the Year, Shlomo Eliahu, and asked him about his decision to acquire Migdal Insurance and Financial Holdings Ltd. “The seller wanted to sell on the spot. My option was either to buy or to fiddle and do nothing. I decided to buy and there was a deal,” said Eliahu.
Wouldn’t it have been better to wait, and maybe buy it at a cheaper price?
“The market is smarter than anything else. Smarter than me. The market responded by boosting the price by 40% since the deal was closed. I am pleased that I did this. May God give me a little health, and you’ll see what will emerge from what I bought.”
You once wanted to acquire Bank Leumi. Did you miss out?
“I thank God who did the reckoning better than me. He decided that I would get something bigger than Bank Leumi.”
Aren’t you worried about entering such a deal at your age?
“There is no concern. I love the country, I live here for better or worse. My fate is derived from the country. The best thing is to do what a man knows, and that’s what I did.”
You’re a man with high social awareness. An insurance company is not a philanthropic organization.
“There’s no connection. An insurance company is a regulated enterprise, a money manager. The social issue pains and bothers me because of my past. Why have Israelis, exemplary children, been sentenced to a country that does not care to give them a piece of land? To build a home? This is a political question. I call on the prime minister to establish a committee to decide who is eligible. We have land; it’s not the price, it’s not the budget or the deficit. I cannot accept that a family which raises exemplary children who serve in the army – that I should export tham to the rest of the world? Who will be here in 30 years?”
What’s the solution?
“We have a lot of land. In two years, I’ll build you hundreds of thousands of homes at a construction cost of $1,000 per square meter. $20,000 for a young couple, an 80% mortgage, and you’ll have a reasonable home for a family.”
So why not do it?
“If I am worthy to be Person of the Year, give me the credit to do it. The question is political and the answer is quite simple. Everything I have has no value if the country is not sound. We’ll have a problem in 20-30 years. We’re exporting out best children. Why?! There is no basis of personal capital; it’s not a disease. This is the country’s real problem, irrespective of war and peace. I really hope that there will be a political upheaval in two months. The people should demand that every child raised here who serves in the army should have a home.”
Person of the Year is an unstable title. Aren’t you afraid?
“I’m never down, there’s no such situation. I always look up.”