The minister of social affairs is a good man, so kind and considerate. When a recent wave of suicides brought on by economic crises came to a head, he condemned the actions. On Sunday he abstained on the government's vote on the "road map," because Zevulun Orlev sees no connection between the state of war and the economic crisis.
He also fails to see any connection between the billions squandered each year on settlements, on his "Bloc of the Faithful" adherents, on the bypass roads, on the infrastructure and Israel Defense Forces guard duty - and the cutbacks in welfare hours for the elderly, in child allowances, in maternity payments, and in collection of National Insurance contributions and health taxes from housewives. He cannot bring himself to see that these are the very same shekels.
Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also proved courageous in the road map vote. He has declared again and again that he opposes a Palestinian state - but he abstained, too. He also refuses to understand that without a diplomatic process, without stopping the war and the terror attacks, the economy will not budge no matter what economic plan he gets passed. War, bombs and growth do not go hand in hand. Investors and tourists to do not go where people get blown up.
Histadrut labor federation chairman Amir Peretz has another way of demonstrating courage: exercising the right of silence. In a meeting this week before the media, he was asked for his position on the occupation, investment in the territories, settlements and the road map. Peretz refused to answer. He skirted the issue, apparently not wanting to upset any of his constituents. He prefers to be seen as the defender of the weak and of the workers, without a clear political stand that might annoy one or two.
And here's another story of valor. This week, after the governor of the Bank of Israel cut the rate of interest by 0.4 percent, Prof. Leo Leiderman, manager of Bank Hapoalim's economic department, said that he ought to have cut it by 0.5 percent or 0.6 percent. Sharp words, maybe even correct ones. But we must remember Leiderman's stand when he was head of the Bank of Israel's research department. Back then, he wholeheartedly supported every rise or reduction in the interest rates that then governor Jacob Frenkel enacted. Back then he did not criticize, nor hint about any reservations. But today, under Bank Hapoalim's roof, he is far more brave.
One other nominee for the bravery award goes to Israel Electric Corporation workers' union boss Yoram Oberkovich, who threatened yesterday: "By God, just wait and see what we will do if the privatization goes ahead." First of all, we don't believe him, because that's exactly the threat he issued before the economic plan, but it was passed. And secondly, let him turn off the switch already, and let him do it on a hot day, when all the air-conditioners are on full blast and all the computer systems will crash. That will be the moment we are freed of the Electric Corp.'s injustice. Once those electric switches are turned off and the machines stop, then there will truly be no stopping the reform of the electricity sector.
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