Akiva Eldar / An Open Letter to Benjamin Netanyahu

Tomorrow is my 65th birthday. Were it not for your reforms as finance minister, I would be a pensioner next week, and this would be my final column.

Dear Mr. Netanyahu,

Tomorrow is my 65th birthday. Were it not for your reforms as finance minister, I would  be a pensioner next week, and this would be my final column. But you shoved your hand into my pocket and cut my pension payments, leaving the state coffers with tens of thousands of shekels of my old age benefits. On the other hand, you did grant me the chance to have a go at you for another two years (as well as hold off on morphing into a fulltime grandpa).

Seven years ago, you dared to challenge the traditional retirement age introduced in the late-19th century by Otto von Bismarck. The German chancellor took into account the fact that few, if any, would benefit at length from pension funds. Average life expectancy has risen since then, the state of pension funds has deteriorated, and you, sir, have adjusted your policies according to the new realities.

Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz Tomer Appelbaum
Tomer Appelbaum

You knew that there is no expression that characterizes the current state of pension funds better than "Eat and drink for tomorrow we die". You understood that it is both unfair and immoral to leave our responsibilities at the feet of our children and grandchildren.

Indeed, experts say the Treasury boys exaggerated our actuarial catastrophe in order to justify the steps they've taken. That's OK. The important thing is that you didn't hide behind political constraints, and that you weren't scared off by the Histadrut politicos. You didn't crisscross behind commentators and you didn't seek refuge behind a Knesset majority or referendum. Many great nations have followed in your footsteps and have also raised their respective retirement ages.

Concerning pensions, you enjoyed the support of then-prime minister Ariel Sharon. Now, Mr. Netanyahu, you are the prime minister, and the duty to worry about our future rests on your shoulders. In the meantime, you, too, have been blessed with a grandson.

At times, when you look at him, don't you wonder what kind of country you'll be leaving him? Will little Shmuel be the proud citizen of an enlightened and prosperous nation if you, Bibi, continue to be afraid of your own father? If his grandfather recoils at the threats of the Right, will he grow up in a country that lives peacefully alongside its neighbors?

In terms of pension reform, you understood that a real leader, like a responsible parent, wouldn't look in the mirror and declare, "Après moi le déluge". Will you find within yourself the vision and the daring to initiate courageous reforms regarding the state's character, its broken borders, relations with its neighbors and our standing in the world.

See you back here in two years.