The economy is in bad shape and deteriorating. Rapid action is needed to change its direction, and if that doesn't happen, production will continue to fall, bringing with it lowere standards of living and unemployment. Ultimately, stability itself will collapse.

The treasury's plan to rehabilitate the economy, passed by the government, is the most comprehensive attempt at economic reform ever undertaken in Israel. That does not mean the plan is perfect - it is possible mistakes were made and a public debate is justified to examine what should be fixed or even abandoned. But it is important to remember that the plan was born from the data, not from ideology or vested interests.

It's true that on some issues the principles of a free-market capitalist economy are emphasized - privatization, for example. But those principles were accepted by Labor governments. The suspicion that ideology lurks behind the reforms simply isn't true. For example, the parts dealing with shrinking the public sector and cutting welfare payments have been called "Thatcherism" or "Reaganism." But these are inexorable reforms, because their cost has reached levels the economy simply cannot support over time. Similar reforms have been introduced by social democratic governments in the West.

It's convenient for the opponents to call it a "Thatcherite" program, imposed by a finance minister who personally embodies a Republican, conservative, even "American" worldview. But the proposals for solutions to the problems in the economy have been raised for years by professionals in the treasury, especially in the budgets department - although it is true that officials in Benjamin Netanyahu's treasury have been given a freer hand than ever.

It also should be noted that the professional class at the treasury is one of the few players in the macroeconomic sphere in Israel that is free of vested or personal interests. It has been argued that some of the treasury officials win high-paying jobs in the private sector after leaving their government position, but they get those jobs through professionalism and certainly not because of the public "popularity" they won on the job.

The economic plan inspires resistance because it actually hurts vested interests. The amazing thing is the scope and intensity of the opposition to the plan across the entire public spectrum. There is practically no article in the plan that has not prompted a body or pressure group, economic or social, to point to the catastrophic damage that will be caused to the economy, society and state if that element in the plan is implemented as proposed.

Brutal, anti-democratic methods were used - Justice Mishael Cheshin has spoken of "a gun the Histadrut has held to the Knesset's temple" (Haaretz May 2), when striking against the economic legislation. Sometimes there has been malicious abuse of the public, as at Ben-Gurion Airport. There has been cynical exploitation of weakness - the most shameful example is the demonstration of the downtrodden organized with the help of care-giving companies under the patronage of the Histadrut. The participants were frightened with horror stories about what they could expect from the treasury.

It seems nearly every aspect of the plan has its opponents. Together, everyone opposes everything and there's nothing good in the plan.

It's still not clear what will remain of the plan at the end of the public campaigns but one troubling conclusion is becoming clear. Israel is losing its ability to make essential reforms that require a long-term view and material sacrifices. Pressure groups, vested interests, and protected sectors set a negative agenda for the economy and society that could lead to anarchy and disintegration.