The Bottom Line / Saints Before Elections

It seems that the closer we get to the elections, politicians become more and more "socially aware." Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has become caring; Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is now interested in helping the elderly; Shimon Peres, Haim Ramon and Isaac Herzog all want to increase government spending; and Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz wants more education.

This week the defense minister appeared before a conference of directors from the Israel Management Center. He spoke a little about security matters; most of his talk was dedicated to social problems. Mofaz managed to use all the standard cliches about social gaps, poverty and the importance of education. Not a single original thought. Nothing to write home about. But all of a sudden the minister outdid himself and said, "The education budget must be double that of the defense budget."

This dream is quite easy to achieve, Mr. Mofaz. The shekel part of the defense budget is NIS 35 billion. The rest is American defense aid. The education budget is NIS 25 billion. What could be more simple than to transfer NIS 15 billion from the defense budget to the education budget? This would make the education budget twice that of the shekel portion of the defense budget. Mofaz only has to propose such a cut in defense to the cabinet, and his socio-educational dream would be immediately fulfilled. Go ahead. Just do it.

Wonders of public service

In spite of all the attempts by the treasury's wage director, Yuval Rachlevsky, the amazing miracles and wonders in the civil service continue.

Recently we were informed that the previous chief of the Israel Police, Shlomo Aharonishki, received upon retirement between half a million to 1 million shekels gross pay for vacation days that he never used.

The police are subject to the rules made by the treasury's accountant-general, which do not allow police officers to accumulate more than 90 days of vacation. But that doesn't seem to be good enough for the police brass. In 2000 they implemented an administrative rule canceling the limit on the number of accumulated vacation days, thereby allowing Aharonishki to collect cash for all his unused vacation.

The meaning of 350 accumulated vacation days is that the chief of police did not take a single day off for 14 years (based on 25 vacation days a year). Is that really possible? Did all his trips overseas not include even one day of vacation?

The treasury hurried to publicize an announcement that the police's actions were unacceptable and invalid; and that the matter was being referred to Rachlevsky's care. But what kind of treasury is this, and what type of accountant-general or wages director if all of them have no idea what is going on in an organization under their supervision?

London in the crosshairs

Even after yesterday's series of explosions in London, we still have not forgotten the city's victory in the 2012 Olympics sweepstakes.

Tony Blair joyously responded: "We will have incredible Olympic Games."

Wait a second, doesn't anyone remember that Tel Aviv was supposed to be the venue for the 2012 Olympics?

It was only five years ago that our representative on the International Olympic Committee, Alex Giladi, proposed that Tel Aviv host the 2012 Olympic games. Giladi recruits the mayor of Tel Aviv, Ron Huldai, and a few architecture students for the task. They built a very nice model showing how to stage the games between the Yarkon stream and the Ramat Gan stadium.

For a country where there are not even decent bathrooms in football stadiums, and sports facilities are pathetic and disgusting, it would be nice to live a little bit under the illusion that we are in the same league as cities such as Beijing, New York, Moscow, Paris, Madrid and London.

Beijing, the host of the 2008 Olympics, announced that it intends to spend NIS 32 billion on the games - double our defense and education budgets together, including U.S. aid.

But who said we can't dream?