After months of relatively hidden conflict between the Finance Ministry and local tycoons, which took place mostly via emissaries, businessman Nochi Dankner took the battle public yesterday.
"The treasury is not doing enough, Israel is one of of the few countries in the world that is doing nothing," he said. Dankner, the controlling shareholder of the IDB group, spoke at the opening of a new Super-Sol branch in Netivot.
Dankner did not explicitly say he expects state aid for the wealthy, and in fact hinted at the opposite in talking about the various aid programs.
"Even with all the talk of rescues, it seems to me that we need to be allowed to rescue the state and not the opposite," said Dankner.
Nevertheless, the fact that Dankner, who avoids interviews, spoke out so clearly against the Finance Ministry provides a glimpse into his thinking: He expects state aid for the business sector.
Dankner had not yet spoken out about the various plans to aid bond markets, though it is well-known that many of the owners of large corporations support the rescue plan proposed by the chairman of the Israel Securities Authority, Zohar Goshen. Attorney Ram Caspi, who is known to be very close to Dankner, is pushing a similar program.
The treasury has taken a number of steps during the present crisis and has announced its plan to promote economic growth. Nevertheless, the Finance Ministry has objected strongly to any plan that will rescue business people and companies who cannot pay off their debts.
IDB is one of the largest holding companies in Israel, and controls many well-known firms such as Super-Sol, Clal Insurance, Cellcom, Golf and Property and Building.
IDB's financial situation is considered to be stable and for now there are no fears it will not be able to pay back its obligations. However, state aid to other businesses would also certainly help Dankner in raising funds and refinancing his debts.
The timing of Dankner's comments, coming less than two weeks before Finance Minister Roni Bar-On leaves office and over half a year after the economic crisis broke out, is somewhat surprising.
At the same time, Dankner complimented Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu, who will be responsible for any such aid plans.
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