The color has returned to the cheeks of the treasury's director-general and accountant general. Suddenly, they are about to embark on a glorious and courageous battle. All of a sudden, they have blossomed, raining fire and brimstone down on the governor of the Bank of Israel, David Klein, being interviewed at every turn and explaining what exactly it is all about to anyone who wants to listen.
They have not even tired of meeting most government ministers to persuade them to vote this Sunday for the new Bank of Israel Law, from that house of learning of their very own minister, Silvan Shalom, who so loves them today.
Have we heard of Ohad Marani (director-general) and Nir Gilad (accountant general) heading such a battle against the strongest unions in the economy? Did they dare to say what should have been be said during the strike by the handicapped, who managed to twist the treasury around their little fingers? Did they launch an attack on the politicians that pushed for the Negev Law? Did they initiate private tete-a-tetes with the cabinet ministers about the Jubilee Port, which is far from alive and kicking? Did they lash out with harsh words against the ultra-Orthodox riding on the backs of the public? Did they dare speak one word in support of the professional Ben-Bassat tax reforms?
For all those important matters, they did not have time. But what do they have time for? For fighting that terrible man, Klein, who has planned the destruction of the Israeli economy for two years now. For this, they have plenty of time. How pleasant and easy it is to be heroes when it doesn't endanger your standing in the office - to the contrary. And it is of course an ideal method to deflect fire from the main issue - the budget oversights and the threatening deficit.
Even Klein's colleagues, all former finance ministers - Avraham Shochat, Dan Meridor and Meir Sheetrit - think Shalom's proposal is "dangerous talk." They oppose the government choosing six members of a nine-member monetary council because such an arrangement is dangerous and destructive. They also say that the objectives the proposal has drafted for the central bank are exaggerated and incorrect, and that it would be far better to accept the recommendations of the Levin Commission, with slight alterations.
On taking office, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon declared "I am going to adopt the Levin report in its entirety". So? He also declared not long ago that the Negev Law and the Large Families Law would be canceled. How lucky we are then to have Haim Ben-Shahar and Jacob Frenkel trying patiently to explain to the prime minister how dangerous the situation really is and how the treasury and Shalom are playing with fire close to a barrel of oil.
In one moment, our relative stability could turn into an almighty run on capital and a crazy depreciation of the shekel. Don't Shalom, Marani and Gilad even slightly fear a downgrading of Israeli banks and the IMF's sharp criticism?
So Sunday is a golden opportunity for Benjamin Ben-Eliezer and the Labor ministers. They can put right the bad reputation they have earned up to now. They indeed agreed to an absurd budget that assumed a growth rate in the economy of 4 percent in 2002, and failed miserably when they supported the Negev Law. Now Ben-Eliezer can demonstrate responsibility and leadership: Say "NO" to Shalom and thereby save the people of Israel from this dreadful and disgraceful prospect.
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