The man who knows more than all of us
We cannot change the rule and allow the prime minister to change his portfolio during his term of office. Aside from the clear conflict-of-interest, this will also give him more time to deal with matters that are really important.
We are afraid. The lack of certainty in our world is increasing. No one knows what to expect, even from one day to another. We don't know whether Syrian President Bashar Assad will fall and what will happen in Syria, and we certainly don't know when we will attack Iran, if at all. We also don't know how the economic crisis in Europe is going to develop, what will happen to the euro, and whether the dollar will continue to grow stronger. We certainly can't begin to guess whether the government will present a budget for next year or whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will declare elections. We are anxious about our pensions, our work situations, our savings, and, of course, our security.
But there is one man who has a great deal more information than we do. He knows more about Syria, more about Iran, more about the next budget, more about the price of gasoline, more about the economic edicts and more about the possibility of holding early elections. The prime minister, of course. And that is precisely the reason there is a provision that his investment portfolio has to be managed under a blind trust, and that only once - at the beginning of his term of office - can he decide on its composition. From then on, he is not allowed to intervene in the management of his savings. Thus, he will not be tempted to use the information that is available to him ex officio.
But Netanyahu feels he is the victim of discrimination. He sees all the economic upheavals in the world and is sure he could do better by his family if he could merely change his investment portfolio a little bit. The question is: why at this exact point in time? After all, the crisis in Europe has been around for two years now. Perhaps it is because of Iran? Or Syria? Or the budget?
Who can know, other than Netanyahu himself? That is why the instruction forbidding intervention is so wise. That is why it is so just. It is supposed to relieve the prime minister of an obstacle. But Netanyahu failed; he didn't resist the temptation. At the end of July he appealed to the permits committee in the State Comptroller's Office to allow him to make changes in the portfolio. One can guess that if it had been the previous comptroller, Micha Lindenstrauss, Netanyahu would not have bothered asking.
In any event, it was the duty of the permits committee to give Netanyahu a resounding "no." After all, it was precisely for this reason that the blind trust was established. Precisely for this reason, a rule was established forbidding the prime minister from intervening in his investment portfolio. Because of the fear that he has inside information, because of the fear that he will use information that reached him as a result of his position.
The comptroller, Joseph Shapira, and the committee members, did not want to disappoint Netanyahu. They told him he could make a change in the portfolio, but only after the government changes the existing rule. Netanyahu did not agree to hold a debate of this kind in the government. It was clear to him that the moment the cabinet ministers heard about it, it would be leaked to the media and he would be seen in an unfavorable light. Therefore he informed the comptroller that he was withdrawing his request.
Netanyahu was aware that someone might draw a comparison between his case and that of former Chief of Staff Dan Halutz, who sold his shares on the day the soldiers were abducted on the Lebanese border, a few hours before the decision to begin the Second Lebanon War. Netanyahu did not take into account that there are no secrets anymore. He did not understand that his appeal to the committee would be leaked to the media regardless of the result. And indeed, Zvi Zrahiya published the story in TheMarker and a storm broke out.
Netanyahu is convinced that he knows in which direction his investment portfolio should be changed. But the truth is that in our uncertain world, it is very hard to know. Perhaps Europe has reached rock bottom and its economic situation will soon begin to improve? After all, the best economists have made huge mistakes in forecasting the future.
We cannot change the rule and allow the prime minister to change his portfolio during his term of office. Aside from the clear conflict-of-interest, this will also give him more time to deal with matters that are really important. After all, Syria, Iran, the budget, the price of gasoline, and unemployment are a lot more important.