The Bottom Line / Wonders will never cease
Despite the difficult security situation, the attacks and the many victims, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon still stands in high public esteem, according to the polls, along with Defense Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer and Internal Security Minister Uzi Landau.
l The wonders of politics. Despite the difficult security situation, the attacks and the many victims, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon still stands in high public esteem, according to the polls, along with Defense Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer and Internal Security Minister Uzi Landau. All three have failed big time in securing individual and general safety, but nevertheless the public gives them high points - and who can understand why?
On the contrary, Finance Minister Silvan Shalom earns low grades. The public simply won't connect the security situation with the deteriorating state of the economy. But there is a connection - a clear and defined one. An economy that appears on television screens across the globe as an economy at war, with terror attacks in city centers, cannot grow, cannot develop.
So both Sharon and Shalom ought to admit the true picture and tell the country that their view of the world in which there is no negotiating with the Palestinians, and that the problem should be solved with force and the IDF, will lead to a dragged out war and a depression that will only worsen while unemployment simply grows. They should at least let the public hear the truth of the economic price we all must pay for their war policies.
l The wonders of the socially-concerned parties. On Wednesday, the Knesset held an interesting vote. Former finance minister Avraham Shochat (Labor) and Ran Cohen (Meretz) submitted a watered down version of the Ben-Bassat tax reforms to a vote in the plenum. These reforms have passed its "mine-field" test some time ago, having removed the offensive tax clauses on advanced training funds (keren hishtalmut) and inheritance taxes. All that remains are taxes on stock profits, on interest and on overseas income. With the taxes collected from capital holders, it is possible to reduce the strangling rates of income tax on the middle income earners.
The finance minister, who is against taxes on the stock exchange and wants another reform, a la Rabinovich, did everything possible to stop the bill. He convinced MKs to stay clear of the vote. Even more interestingly, who voted against the taxes on the rich of Israel?
First was the socially conscious Shas. Out of the 22 MKs who voted against, 9 of them were from Shas. The second social party, One Nation, that is MK Amir Peretz and Haim Katz, didn't even turn up for the vote. MK Mordechai Mishani of David Levy's Gesher party also voted nay.
l The wonders of the Israel Electric Corporation. Now the situation has gone too far, this is war, declared Yoram Oberkovitch (electricity workers' union boss) in reaction to the proposal to slash their free electricity perk. So we have a proposal for Oberkovitch. He shouldn't just declare a labor dispute, that's not serious. They shouldn't take sanctions, that's not the done thing. Let him go all the way, and show us who really runs this country. Let him turn the switch off in July-August and leave us all without computers and air conditioners. Then we will see once and for all who rules Israel: The Knesset? IEC management? Or Oberkovitch?