Netanyahu Rivals Team Up Against the Prime Minister for Israel’s Elections

Centrist candidates strike an alliance in a bid to unseat the prime minister

If elected, Benny Gantz, a retired Israeli army chief, and Yair Lapid, a former TV anchor turned parliamentarian, agreed to take turns at running the country, they said in a statement Thursday. Mr. Gantz would serve as prime minister for the first 2½ years, and Mr. Lapid would take over for the rest of the four-year term.

The agreement between the centrist politicians is a result of several weeks of discussions amid questions over whether the two men could put aside their personal ambitions to unite against Mr. Netanyahu.

It also comes at a vulnerable moment for Mr. Netanyahu, who is expected to be indicted on corruption charges later this month. He will have a chance to defend himself in a hearing before charges are formally filed, and he has vowed to stay in power and to fight them. He doesn’t have to resign unless convicted. Mr. Netanyahu has denied wrongdoing..

Opinion polls project a tight contest, but some indicate that Mr. Gantz’s Israel Resilience party and Mr. Lapid’s Yesh Atid party could together secure more seats in Israel’s parliament than Mr. Netanyahu’s Likud.

“The new ruling party will bring forth a cadre of security and social leaders to ensure Israel’s security and to reconnect its people and heal the divide within Israeli society,” the parties said in a statement.

The two parties also said they would add former Israeli army chief Gabi Ashkenazi to their slate. Mr. Ashkenazi is seen as an important player in attracting votes from the right, which will be important if Messrs. Gantz and Lapid are to unseat Mr. Netanyahu.

Both Mr. Gantz and Mr. Lapid are running as anti-Netanyahu candidates, while emphasizing a commitment to addressing social problems in Israel like education, housing, health care and traffic.

They have struck a more moderate tone than Mr. Netanyahu on handling relations with the Palestinians. Before the agreement, Mr. Lapid’s camp said it was unsure whether Mr. Gantz supported a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, citing at least one in his party who has opposed it in the past.

Mr. Netanyahu’s Likud party said the election would be a choice of “either a left-wing government of Lapid-Gantz with preventative support from the Arab parties, or a right-wing government with Netanyahu at its helm.”

As an alliance became more likely, Mr. Netanyahu issued statements and videos painting Mr. Gantz and Mr. Lapid as weak and leftist, while describing himself and his party as strong and right.

.. Israeli politicians must submit their party lists to Israel’s Central Election Committee by Thursday. Those lists must disclose whether the politicians will run as one ticket.

.. “For the first time since 2009 we have a competitive race for the premiership,” said Yohanan Plesner, president of the Jerusalem-based Israel Democracy Institute. “The main question is whether this new list can lure or be attractive enough for some center right and soft right voters. This is probably the question that will determine the outcome of the election.”

Mr. Gantz entered politics late last year, brandishing his security credentials but saying little about his policy positions to try to lure a broad swath of the electorate. He has consistently polled second to Mr. Netanyahu and his Likud party.

Mr. Lapid’s party finished second in the 2013 elections, the first contest after it was created, but has slid in the polls ever since. Mr. Lapid served for a year as the finance minister in Mr. Netanyahu’s government.

Fed Says Student Debt Is Hurting U.S. Housing Market

Report finds student debt has prevented 400,000 young Americans from buying homes, may help explain urban-rural economic divide

Student debt has prevented hundreds of thousands of young Americans from buying a home in recent years and may help explain why many college graduates have moved out of rural areas, the Federal Reserve said Wednesday.

The drop in homeownership among young households and the growing economic divide between rural and urban areas are two big puzzles of the economy this century. The Fed now says student debt—which has more than doubled over the past decade to $1.5 trillion—is one factor helping explain the shifts.

The share of households headed by someone between ages 24 and 32 years old who owned a home declined 9 percentage points in the decade through 2014, falling to 36% from 45%, the Fed said. There were many factors, but roughly 2 percentage points—or 20%—of the decline was directly due to households owing student debt, the Fed found.

The report also found that people with student debt are far more likely to move out of rural areas than those without student debt. “Only 52 percent of rural student loan borrowers still live in rural areas” six years after their records appear in a database that tracks consumer credit reports, the Fed said.

A ‘Forgotten History’ Of How The U.S. Government Segregated America

Today African-American incomes on average are about 60 percent of average white incomes. But African-American wealth is about 5 percent of white wealth. Most middle-class families in this country gain their wealth from the equity they have in their homes. So this enormous difference between a 60 percent income ratio and a 5 percent wealth ratio is almost entirely attributable to federal housing policy implemented through the 20th century.

.. (16 min)

Why Housing Is Unaffordable in California

in California’s coastal metros more than two-thirds of cities and counties have policies explicitly aimed at restricting housing growth, such as limits on density. 

.. When a developer wants to break ground, local governments impose multilayered reviews that can mean getting approval from the municipal building department, health department, fire department and planning commission as well as elected officials.

Neighbors can delay or block projects using the state’s 1970 Environmental Quality Act. It isn’t coincidental that California’s housing prices soared during the 1970s. Getting a building permit in San Francisco takes about three times as long as in the typical American metro.

.. All told, it costs between $50,000 and $75,000 more to build a home in California than in the rest of the country. Building a low-income housing unit costs $332,000—about $80,000 more than the median home in Dallas or Phoenix.

.. Opponents accuse developers of being greedy, but their real gripe is that subdividing the lots would increase the housing stock and thereby diminish the value of their own homes.

.. California’s housing policies are intrinsically regressive. Limiting the supply drives up home values in well-to-do coastal communities, while pricing everyone else out of the market. Households in the lowest quartile in California spend about two-thirds of their incomes on housing; those in the top quartile spend just 16%.

.. The conundrum California’s landed gentry face is they want to boost their home values—and at the same time to have an abundant supply of low-wage workers to mow their lawns and clean their pools too.