A new finance minister
Yuval Steinitz is no longer the right person for the job. A replacement is needed who is not dependent on the PM and stands firm against the Knesset.
After the shock over the sudden alliance between Shaul Mofaz and Benjamin Netanyahu, a number of journalists and politicians embarked on a campaign of holy anger. It was also quite amusing to hear them protesting about the lack of integrity, the dirty trick, the corruption and the unsightliness.
Well, really. Don’t they know that that’s exactly what politics is about? One day you’re in the opposition and your job is to criticize and vilify, and the next day you go over to the coalition and cooperate with the person you besmirched the day before. Of course Mofaz and Netanyahu had both political and personal considerations. It’s always like that. But what’s important is to examine whether the alliance is good for the people of Israel − and it is. Because the new coalition is much more universal and less sectoral than its predecessor.
Now the Haredim (ultra-Orthodox) can no longer extort without paying a price. If they leave the coalition, the government won’t fall. Now there is also a certain chance of promoting the four paragraphs on which the agreement is based: a new “Tal Law” (which provided draft exemptions for Haredim); changing the system of government; renewing negotiations with the Palestinians; and an emergency budget for 2013. It is not without reason that the agreement speaks of “an emergency budget.” We are indeed in an emergency situation. The budgetary deficit this year will be between three and four percent, which is a serious problem, but it is expected to jump to between five and six percent next year, which is a real disaster.
A deficit of that size will lead the credit rating companies to lower Israel’s credit rating. This will bring about a higher interest rate, difficulties in raising capital, a drop in investments, recession and unemployment − in other words, an economic crisis of the Greek and Spanish kind.
Only this week, we got our first warning sign with flashing red lights when Moody’s downgraded the outlook for Israel’s banking system. And when talking about an emergency situation, emergency steps have to be taken − something extraordinary to show all the pressure groups that the rules of the game have changed. Just like a soccer coach is changed when the team has to be shaken up, so a finance minister has to be replaced when it is necessary to “change the disk” in the economy.
A finance minister who enjoys saying “no” must be found − someone who understands that a “good” finance minister is in fact a “bad” finance minister who guards the state treasury zealously. One who doesn’t give, and doesn’t distribute, and who has the courage to face up to the big workers’ committees and carry out unpleasant but important reforms without fear.
What is needed is someone who is not dependent on the prime minister, who does not owe his existence to the premier’s generosity, but who stands firm and fights against him. What is needed is someone who has his own political clout and who will not allow the Knesset members to do as they like and legislate expensive private bills.
Yuval Steinitz is no longer the right person. He has had a great many achievements so far, but in the past three years (with Netanyahu’s backing) he conducted a policy of “I have it.” He expanded budgetary expenditure without considering the repercussions. Everyone got more − defense, social affairs and welfare, infrastructure, and the workers in the public sector. The only problem now is that there’s nothing left to pay the bills.
There are a number of candidates in Likud who could take on this difficult task. Dan Meridor knows exactly what has to be done. He has already served as finance minister. His problem is that he has no political power in Likud and Netanyahu does not rely on him.
There is also Gideon Sa’ar, who does have the political clout, and who is able to stand up to Netanyahu. He can also be the “bad guy” if necessary. And there is Gilad Erdan, who has many regiments in the party, who is combative by nature, who has the courage and gift of gab and ability to explain − and who doesn’t give a damn about anyone, only about success.
There are also candidates from outside Likud. Avigdor Lieberman is capable of being a successful finance minister. He believes in a free economy and competition and is a strong person who is unafraid. But he has legal problems.
Then there is Roni Bar-On who has already proved himself as a strong finance minister who does not give in to populism, and who doesn’t hesitate to enter into confrontations with the entire world, including the prime minister. His problem is his bad relations with Netanyahu.
In any event, it is time for a “re-start” that will shake up the entire system. And then the journalists will once again be surprised. But what’s wrong with surprising the media?