The Likud's response was swift: "Kadima is making empty promises."
Empty promises? Hello, the pot shouldn't call the kettle black, Bibi Netanyahu. Kadima's promises pale by comparison to your own - the ones you presented to the public only two weeks ago.
Indeed, among the three big parties, Kadima has acted with relative responsibility, in presenting its economic platform yesterday. It is not promising free land for soldiers, discounts in medicine prices for the elderly, subsidized rent for the poor and tax cuts in the periphery. Kadima's economic platform consists of a few redundant clauses, but altogether it is heading in the right direction - fighting poverty by encouraging work.
Amir Peretz promised to spend NIS 68 billion in four years. Netanyahu promised to spend NIS 24 billion. Only Kadima's platform has no numbers, no billions, only a slogan: narrowing the socioeconomic gap, which is the bon ton of all the parties.
Speaking of empty promises, we should adopt the Dutch method. When a Dutch party releases its economic platform, it must hand it to the state's planning department, which checks the real cost and budgetary implications. Then, if the platform is deceptive and omits real costs, the department releases the policy's real implications right away.
In Israel it is still possible to deceive the public; therefore Kadima's relatively responsible conduct is worth mentioning. The reason is Kadima is a ruling party, and Olmert is the finance minister and therefore cannot afford unruly behavior, not even with promises.
Despite the journalists' demands, Meir Sheetrit refused to commit to a change in the allowance policy. There is a tacit agreement among the three major parties not to raise them again.
Sheetrit was also right when he said the poverty problem is 30 years old and to reduce it, we must preserve a fast growth rate and encourage people to work. One way to do so, he said, was to introduce negative income tax, but he should have revealed to the public that the treasury budgets' department objects to this move.
Sheetrit also said that to create workplaces for Israelis, the number of foreign workers must be considerably reduced. Tough words. But apparently in the past year (when both he and Olmert were cabinet ministers) the number of foreign workers (both legal and illegal) was not reduced at all. The government's failure to get rid of foreign workers halted the reduction of unemployment.
Sheetrit spoke of the need to streamline the IDF and Defense Ministry, because no "massive cutback in the defense establishment" has been effected in recent years. He is so right. But why doesn't this streamlining exist in the 2006 budget? What stopped the Sharon-Olmert-Sheetrit government from streamlining the defense establishment so far?
It's always easier to talk than to act.
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