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Encouraging tourism. One of the most difficult tasks is to work out exactly how much the state invests in the territories, because every government minister makes his own effort. For example, Tourism Minister Benny Elon transfers more and more money to the "tourist sites" in the territories. Clearly no one visits these places, but in the meantime, the settlers are content to receive more state funding, can employ more workers, receive more state salaries and put up more buildings in the face of the local Arabs. This is how Elon puts his world view into practice through the Tourism Ministry's budget: war-mongering that will lead to the transfer of Arabs.

His latest idea is to take a special levy from everyone traveling abroad, which will be refundable when he or she next takes a vacation in Israel. A sort of fine for going overseas. This, according to Elon, would be the right way to go about encouraging domestic tourism. Maybe we could improve this lunatic idea a little, so that the levy is refunded only when spending time in a hotel in Ariel, or a family visit to a "tourist site" in the territories.

The late lesson. When Avner Yarkoni was head of the Israel Civil Aviation Authority, it was widely claimed (here too) that he would actually be representing El Al, blocking competition from the charter companies, and from Arkia and Israir. Yarkoni continually denied this.

Now El Al is brandishing a letter that Yarkoni sent the airline in December 2000, saying that the authority would not take unused routes away from El Al. Yarkoni now claims that unfair use has been made of the letter, because it was pertinent only for the time at the start of the intifada, and since then, circumstances have changed. El Al naturally thinks otherwise and vilifies Yarkoni at every opportunity.

Maybe Yarkoni has finally learned that it was never worthwhile to defend El Al. Because competition was also hurt, and even El Al doesn't recognize a favor.

Keeper's fees. Following reports written here over excessive fees charged by the banks in Israel, it now appears that not all banks act the same. Not all of them take 0.5 percent a year in keeper's fees (or to use their term "management fees"). For example, if you were to go into United Mizrahi Bank or Bank Clali and demand they cancel these scandalous fees, they'll agree.

But if you approach banks Leumi or Hapoalim to cancel their commissions, it's like trying to part the Red Sea. Only if you are a major customer, who can argue proficiently and who runs a securities portfolio of a couple of million, then you may get a 50 percent or even 85 percent reduction on your keeper's fees.

All of which teaches us that it is worthwhile transferring to the smaller banks, where the customer is more important. And don't forget that the charge for transferring to another bank is supervised and stands at only NIS 93. So if they charge you 0.5 percent for a transfer fee (as happened to a Bank Leumi customer) - don't take it lying down. Complain immediately to the Supervisor of Banks.