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Is Finance Minister Roni Bar-On a hysteric? Yes, according to Histadrut labor federation chair Ofer Eini, who yesterday dubbed the finance minister "hysterical".

"Bar-On's response to the idea is meant to hide his and his officials' concern that such a council would erode the enormous power they have accumulated," he accused.

The "Irish scheme" proposal calls for the establishment of an advisory council that would place the government, the Histadrut and the Manufacturers Association on an equal footing.

Eini said that private employers and the Histadrut had proposed that the finance minister join the initiative. "We suggested that the council operate under Knesset legislation and be headed by the prime minister, and proposed that the resulting program be subject to government approval. So we don't understand the finance minister's 'anti-democratic accusation,'" Eini said. "The treasury is the one using anti-democratic methods, through its use of the Arrangements Law."

Eini added that as he had not heard the finance minister speaking out against the Arrangements Law, he can only surmise that he fully supports his officials on this matter.

"We are in an odd situation, in which advisers in their 20s, who have just completed university and were elected by no one, are dictating to democratically elected ministers how their ministries will look.

"The idea of establishing an economic-social council is far more democratic than the treasury's continued accumulation of enormous power in recent years. Treasury officials represent only a single economic theory in which they were trained and which they follow submissively, like religious adherents. The council, on the other hand, would represent the interests of all sectors; workers, employers, minorities and professionals, including those who think differently. This is far more democratic than the treasury's absolute control over economic and social life."

Bar-On called the proposed council "not a revolution but a proposal for a revolt." Speaking at the Forbes conference, Bar-On said that from what he had read in the press, it appears that the proposal seeks to change the democratic system of government. Instead of a democracy, in which every citizen has a direct influence over government policy through the parliament, the proposal offers a system of government in which the social contract is dictated by brokers and professional unions, sectoral organizations that do not represent the majority of the population.

"I find this idea something that is in direct opposition to the principle of parliamentary democracy" Bar-On said.

"The attempt to form a barrier between the will of voters and government sovereignty by means of an array of brokers, raises such questions as what is the legitimate basis that justifies a demand to receive authority equal to that of an elected government? These organizations are not answerable to the public, but to the group of people who chose them; they are a guild. If the purpose is to seek an alternative to the government, the appropriate avenue would be to run in democratic elections," Bar-On said.