Yes, prime minister
Prime Minister Ofer Eini. No, that's not a mistake. Israel has a prime minister, just one, and his name is Ofer Eini. Benjamin Netanyahu may hold the official title, but that's a fiction. In practice, he cringes before Eini and has adopted Eini's mind as his own. In practice, Eini is the one running the Israeli government, so he might as well bear the title as well.
Three weeks ago Netanyahu coined a new phrase: "real minimum wage." Netanyahu is a public-relations wizard, remember, so he gave his new phrase meaning: People would be defined as earning the minimum wage only if they actually take home the minimum wage, meaning less than NIS 5,000 a month. "We do agree to raise the minimum wage, but only for have-nots, not haves," Netanyahu told Haaretz. "If we give to the haves, we'll have less for the have-nots."
Haves, have-nots - a wonderful use of words by the rhetorically brilliant prime minister, if not the actual one. But he was making a real point: Of the 18,700 people working for the government who receive income supplements to increase their pay to the minimum wage, in fact only 943 - yes, just 5% - really take home less than NIS 5,000 a month. The other 95% get all sorts of extras that don't figure in the calculation of "minimum wage." In fact, although defined as earning the minimum wage, they earn much more. The average wage of that 95% is NIS 8,858 a month, more than double the minimum wage.
What sense does it make to adjust the minimum wage for people whose average wage is 130% higher than the minimum wage? It makes no sense. It's not just. The only reason is the political interest of the Histadrut labor federation and its chairman, Ofer Eini. Israel's civil servants are his power base.
So two weeks ago the prime minister said the minimum wage would be rising, on condition that public-sector workers earning more than the minimum wage wouldn't get the raise. As the formal prime minister put it, only people earning the "real minimum wage" would get it.
Well said, but the final word is Eini's. We know because three weeks after Netanyahu's firm statement, we are left speechless: Even though Finance Ministry officials don't believe Eini could whip up a nationwide strike over raising the "minimum wage" for people taking home double that and more, the minimum wage is rising for all. Including for the people earning much, much more than that in practice.