Text size

Where is he? We know where he is. National Infrastructures Minister Binyamin "Fuad" Ben-Eliezer is in Azerbaijan.

We know that because his spokesman updated us with that information after we expressed interest in various actions the minister has taken in response to the recent electrical blackout crisis.

"The infrastructures minister," his spokesman informed us, "is considering cancelling his visit to Azerbaijan, but after consulting with higher authorities, including the prime minister and Foreign Ministry staff, it was decided to make the visit in order to avoid a diplomatic crisis."

This is not the only thing that the minister considered doing in respect to the crisis in Israel's electrical sector. He also considered, says his spokesman, "implementing paragraph 58 of the Electricity Law, and declaring an emergency situation in the electrical sector for a week."

He considered it, but decided not to do it.

And what did the infrastructures minister actually decide to do? The minister, it turns out: "Ordered the establishment of a committee to investigate the matter."

The committee will report its conclusions within a week, and thus, maybe, will help avoid such crises in the future; but it won't help the present crisis very much.

Bad CEO, bad

The minister, it turns out, spoke to the CEO of the Israel Electric Corporation (IEC), and ordered him to expedite repairs. The CEO, without a doubt, needed the minister's request to speed up repairs.

The minister also ordered the IEC to advertise in the media and announce in advance the time and place of scheduled electrical outages, probably the only practical step that the minister made during the entire crisis.

What the minister did not do, at any time during the power crisis, was to wield his authority as the representative of the IEC's shareholders, the owner, in other words, to ensure that the company was dealing with the crisis properly.

He did not assemble the management, did not require a special board of directors session, and did not ensure that the IEC provided him, or the public, with an accounting of what was happening, and why.

Not much action on the Fuad front

This is the second time within a week that Fuad acted in such a manner.

"It's all a matter of ego wars," crowed one of the newspapers last week when writing about the crisis that erupted between the head of the Government Companies Authority, Eyal Gabbai, and the head of the Oil Refineries, Ehud Marani, as a result of the deal arranged by Marani whereby the refineries would buy 70 gas stations from Dor Alon-Sonol after the companies' merger.

Gabbai, who tried to fight the state's battle against a deal done behind its back, and which was likely to impair the process of privatizing the Ashdod refineries, was abandoned, and had to wage the fight on behalf of the public all by himself.

It therefore comes as no surprise that Marani's letter written in reply to Gabbai's accusations, a letter which, of course, appeared everywhere in the media, opened with the stinging criticism: "I will not deal with the feeling of insults or anger."

We, on the other hand, really do want to deal with feelings of anger and insult.

We want to deal with the insulting feeling we have that they are not paying any attention to us at all. The insult that the chairman of the Oil Refineries, Marani, does not pay any attention to us, the owners ) even though he runs a government company which we own. All of us.

Marani, one should remember, weaved the deal without informing the state, except at the very last moment. In other words, he did not inform the owners. The owners' representative in this case is Gabbai, and therefore, Gabbai took it personally, but his insult belongs to all of us.

We could not help but wonder what would have happened if David Wiessman, the head of Dor Alon, had been the representative of Marani's owners, and his boss.

If Wiessman had been our representative, would Marani have forgotten to inform him, too, about the huge deal he was cooking? Or was such amnesia just because the shareholders, us, the public, are the citizens of Israel?

We wanted to talk about our angry feelings, too. Our anger over the fact that the State of Israel does not manage, and in practice does not control, the government companies it owns.

The anger is because those who are supposed to manage the government companies for us are not doing their jobs, because these companies' are interested in us as much as the snows of yesteryear.

At the same time that Gabbai dared to fight for the public, the media attacked him for it, while the real owner of the Oil Refineries sat on the sidelines and said nothing. National Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer avoided intervening during the entire crisis.

"In the matter of the crisis between Eyal Gabbai and the Oil Refineries," the spokesman wrote us, and in the process, of course, exemplified the minister's opinion: "The infrastructures minister expressed his opinion that the way that the deal was presented was improper."

And that was the end of the minister's handling of the affair. That was all he did in relation to the refusal of the state's second-largest government company under his authority to act according to proper procedures.

Given such action by the minister, it is no wonder that Marani doesn't even bother to pay any attention to the Israeli public as his shareholder.