Netanyahu could care less about collapse of Israel's media
Had the government ordered the dismantling of large pyramids three years ago, it would have been possible to prevent the crash of IDB Holdings.
It is possible that Nochi Dankner is sorry now that he used all his power to thwart the moves against concentration in the economy. After all, had the government and the Knesset ordered the dismantling of large pyramids three years ago, when public debate began to focus on the issue of economic concentration, it would have been possible to prevent the festive crash of IDB Holdings. Instead, IDB was forced last week to include a "going concern" warning, meaning there is doubt about its ability to cover its debts.
Remember concentration? The issue that former MK Tamar Gozansky railed against 12 years ago? Back then, everyone said she was a dangerous Communist. And remember how those who spoke out against it three years ago, including TheMarker, were thought to be socialists who want to spoil the fun? But as time went on, it became a trend; everyone spoke out against it. So much so that it became clear nothing would be done to stop it. Eventually, the prime minister was forced to succumb to all the talk. Against his will, he set up a committee that presented a report on the matter that is just now coming up for debate in the Knesset's Finance Committee.
As all that was going on, the owners of the pyramids who had leverage - Yitzhak Tshuva, Ilan Ben-Dov, the Ofer family, and their ilk - managed to cause credit losses amounting to billions of shekels on the stock market. And even before its final bankruptcy, the value of IDB's stocks and bonds plummeted by 80 percent. The blow is to the pensions, investments and savings of the public - on which these pyramids were built with such ease and arrogance.
Had the state done its part to curb the megalomania of the tycoons, and dismantled their pyramids, there would have been more potential buyers. In that case, the dismantling process would have been likely to add value to the company, not to destroy it. Had the state forced IDB to dismantle, a substantial acquisition like that of the Swiss bank Credit Suisse would not have had an impact on three companies, but would have affected only shareholders and the debt of one company.
Now the economic concentration is dismantling itself. The pyramids are simply collapsing. But it is worth noting what caused this collapse: The social protest movement of 2011. Suddenly a woman got up one morning and felt like she was a nation, and started to walk. And hundreds of thousands joined in her demands for a just, worthy and democratic life.
It was only then, for the first time, that regulators started to notice that there are citizens at the bottom of pyramids of this kind - not just their owners. Suddenly they started limiting the cellular companies; suddenly they were forced to bring down retail prices; suddenly there began obligating the gas companies and franchise owners in the Dead Sea to pay proper royalties to the state; and suddenly, the Trajtenberg report took note that the market is not free and that competition does not exist. And suddenly, there is a chance to prevent monopolies.
This is not a matter of rejoicing at others' misfortunes, but there has to be joy in the understanding that a civic protest can have an impact and can lead to change. It must be understood that even though the public is paying the price now for the drop in the value of stocks and bonds, it is also profitting at least a bit because of the decrease in cellular bills and retail prices. And in any event, one should notice that no one would consider paying even one public shekel in order to "save" IDB and similar companies, because there is nothing left to save. The collapse has already taken place and now the dismantling must be allowed to occur.
But the reason it is crucial to acknowledge that this could all have been prevented if the government had not allowed economic concentration in the first place is so that our elected leaders, and we, will learn lessons for the future. Yet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz are already proving that they have not learned these lessons. In fact, they are right at this very moment making the situation worse for media outlets - which have not been truly free for a long time now. Netanyahu, who has a newspaper of his own through the offices of a foreign tycoon, is trampling on what is left of the broadcasting authority that should, and could, have been an alternative to the private media that he is also weakening - by the horror show he is conducting on the journalists at Channel 10.
The collapse of the media will be no less painful - perhaps even more so - than the collapse of the pyramids. However there is a prime minister in Israel who really could not care less about that, because for him, things are actually very good, thank you very much.