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The Israel Defense Forces has recently been taking on unemployed people from the settlements in the territories to operate as security guards, watching over themselves and those soldiers placed within their midst. It's a nice living, permanent, close to home. So the idea can be extended to other places. For example, the Shin Bet security services could recruit thousands of unemployed in Hadera in order to patrol the main streets, or keep an eye on the local schools. Hadera also has terror attacks. And so we can improve both security and employment in one swoop.

The government, too, has been busy fighting unemployment in its own way. It has decided to freeze the Manpower Employment Law until April 1, 2003, so as to avoid the thousands of dismissals looming, as both private and public sector employers were unwilling to add all their temp staff onto the permanent staff books as set down by the new law.

The government also decided, as requested by Labor and Social Affairs Minister Shlomo Benizri, to cancel the letters of dimissal that were about to be sent to 2,500 temp agency workers employed in the public sector. Various government offices employ more than 4,000 agency workers, and the treasury has so far agreed to absorb 1,500 of them onto the permanent payroll. Benizri and Shas are applying pressure to have all 4,000 taken on as permanent staff, which will increase the long-term costs to the state.

And why is the treasury giving in to Benizri's demands? Because the chairman of the Knesset Labor and Social Affairs Committee is David Tal, also of Shas, and there is no chance of Tal seeing a government bill through the committee stage if Shas' demands are not satisfied.

Likewise, the Histadrut labor federation threatened that if all the agency staff were not taken on board, then it would declare an all-out strike across the public sector, and Finance Minister Silvan Shalom and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon really don't want that.

Education Minister Limor Livnat has found another way to boost employment. She suggested that security work should be recognized as a "favored" profession for released soldiers. This would mean the state would finance part of their wages and it would be more worthwhile to employ newly-released soldiers as guards for schools and the like. "In a state that recognizes gas station attendants as a favored profession, it is illogical not to similarly recognize security guards," said Livnat.

Looking at data for 2001, the only activity that reported growth in the year was government activity, with a growth in the defense budget, while every line of work in the private sector contracted. The implication is that the government is now taking a larger slice of the economy. That is, if there is "growth" it is only in the public sector. If there is "extra employment," that would be in the IDF and the Shin Bet. If there is a growth industry, that would be the "security sector."

In other words, slowly but surely our lives are fulfilling the prophesies of the late Professor Yeshayahu Leibowitz who said, immediately after the Six-Day War, that the conquest of the territories will turn us into a colonialist society with the motto "The best go to work for the Shin Bet."