Those who want to can continue calling Amram Mitzna political tyro. But he's still the political tyro who came out of nowhere to conquer the Labor Party, and he's the political tyro who this week forced the entire top ranks of the Labor Party to come out with a clear public commitment - it's either us, or Sharon.
Mitzna understood the Labor Party had become a fig leaf both for Ariel Sharon and for Tommy Lapid. Sharon wanted the fig leaf so he could continue the exact same policy he has followed for the last two years with Benjamin Ben-Eliezer giving him a local alibi and Shimon Peres defending him in Europe and getting him guarantees in Washington.
Lapid wants Mitzna in the government because Lapid's getting ants in his pants to get into the ministerial chair - and without Mitzna he can't join an extreme right-wing government with Shas where. Heaven forbid - he would suddenly become the left wing of the government.
Therefore, both Sharon and Lapid are very angry at the political tyro who has pulled the rug out from under their dreams of the broad stable secular government they've been nurturing - a government that would continue to do nothing and initiate nothing.
Mitzna's assessment is that even if he doesn't win this time and Sharon puts together a narrow right-wing government with the Haredim, it won't take long for the government to collapse under an economic-financial crisis, because it's obvious that the economy is on its way down the hill.
Two years ago, when the intifada became a war of attrition and the suicide bombers reached the heart of the cities, there were those who didn't want to understand that the economy and society would pay the price. The Likud leadership and a few commentators claimed the recession was a result of the high-tech crisis and the 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers in New York.
Therefore, they claimed, when the world economy recovers, Israel would return to rapid growth. Now they admit that not only are high tech and world recession to blame, but the intifada has had a terrible influence on the economy. They still aren't ready to understand the intifada is the main reason for the socioeconomic crisis, and all the rest - high tech and world recession are much, much less relevant.
The most ridiculous comparison is the one that puts our economic crisis on a par with the global recession. Is there any other Western country finding it difficult to raise capital in the world? Is there any other country having difficulty paying back loans or being threatened with lowered credit ratings. Is there any other country that runs to the Americans to ask for $8 billion in guarantees and another $4 billion in a special grant - because it can't finish the year without the money?
There are those in the treasury who now admit that the budget just recently passed by the Knesset is not real. They admit that they will be forced to cut billions from it, fire civil servants, lower wages, close ministries and possibly raise taxes, because the crisis in 2003 will be even worse than 2002. Tax revenues will continue dropping and there won't be money to pay for defense expenditures. They're sickened by the thought Washington might not provide the guarantees and the grant. That could become the straw that breaks the back of the economy, turning the economic crisis into a financial crisis that will make June 2002 look like child's play.
Those who play down the importance of the intifada as the main cause of the economic crisis are essentially saying that there's no need to hurry back to negotiations, and that the war of attrition can go on and on.
Here's what Prof. Stanley Fisher, a friend of Israel, said about that this week: "Renewing the peace process is of enormous importance. Only ending the state of war and renewing the dialogue with the Palestinians will turn the Israeli economy around - a proper economic policy by the government and Bank of Israel can help, somewhat improving the economy's performance, but not by much. That alone will not turn negative growth into positive growth. If not for the intifada and the war, the Israeli economy would be growing, not as fast as in the past, but definitely growing."
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