Ehud Barak Emil Salman 17.1.2011
Defense Minister Ehud Barak Photo by Emil Salman
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There is no question that the new Knesset faction Atzmaut, headed by Ehud Barak, has broken the world record - for the number of ministers relative to the number of parliament members, that is. Four of its five Knesset members are ministers. That is an insane ratio that makes a mockery of government and constitutes robbery of the public.

But there is another contender for the chutzpah crown: Eli Yishai, chairman of Shas. Now he's demanding a share of the loot. He wants Shas to get the social affairs portfolio, arguing that Shas deserves it because it focuses on the plight of the weak and poor. That is sheer nerve.

Shas does not focus on the plight of the weak and poor. It focuses on the yeshiva students and the general Haredi (ultra-Orthodox ) population, whom it makes weak and poor. It makes sure that they don't study the core curriculum at school, that they don't work and they don't serve in the army, but instead live on government handouts that it obtains for them. Meaning, in poverty. That isn't a welfare policy, that's teaching them to be parasites.

Shas is a racist party that does not accept Ashkenazi members, which violates both equality and welfare. Shas discriminates against women in every way, not even allowing them to represent it in the Knesset. That is the opposite of welfare. Shas has sheer contempt for homosexuals, divorcees and single parents. That is also the opposite of welfare.

If Shas gets the social affairs portfolio, it will become another tool for shoveling money to the Haredim. But what does Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu care? That money will keep him in his job.

The Bank of Israel fund: Not a good idea

Moving onto another subject: Even after it turned out that the revenues we can expect from the natural gas discoveries will be small relative to the national budget, perhaps 1% of the state's revenues every year, the Bank of Israel is still pushing the idea of establishing a special fund to hold and manage the money. By itself, of course.

I oppose the idea and wrote as much in the Hebrew version of Haaretz on Friday, which moved the central bank not at all. Barry Topf, who runs the bank's markets division, will fly to Washington this week for the International Monetary Fund's periodic meeting. He means to take advantage of the venue to consult his colleagues about how they manage their nation's income from natural resources and whether they do so through special funds.

The problem confronting the Bank of Israel is how to prevent the shekel from climbing through the roof when the gas revenue starts to flow.

First of all, dear central bank, it won't happen for a decade. And who knows what the state of our foreign currency reserves will be in 10 years?

Second of all, the problem of the shekel's appreciation has nothing to do with establishing or not establishing the fund.

Every year Israel gets donations from overseas. Does it set up a special fund to handle them? And if our high-tech industry comes up with some wondrous invention, spurring an influx of dollars, is a special fund set up to handle it?

All the state's income from taxes should enter a single basket and be distributed according to the right priorities. The problem of the exchange rate should be addressed separately.