1. Benjamin Netanyahu. The media were alerted to his news conference only on Friday, even though he had planned it for ages.
There are those that say the timing was planned by the "media savvy" minister to coincide with the prime minister's trip to the U.S., so that Netanyahu could grab the headlines. But that's a weak interpretation because Sharon's meeting with Bush is very important, and on the same Sunday there was expected to be some inflammation on the Temple Mount, which would all shift Netanyahu onto the inside pages. So the timing is not the story here.
There are others that say that Netanyahu believes Sharon's government won't last after the disengagement, so he's preparing himself for the primaries against the PM. While Sharon presents himself as a grandfatherly figure, distributing cash for the health basket and Eilat (by not canceling the VAT exemption), Netanyahu wants to be thought of as the Great Reformer. But that doesn't hold water either, because even without this week's news conference, he is already identified with reforms and the market economy.
Actually, they are all barking up the wrong tree. The true reason lies with a 36-page booklet that was presented at the news conference Sunday. We have discovered that neither the Finance Ministry nor the budgets department were involved in its preparation, but that it had been written by Netanyahu himself with his bureau staff.
Netanyahu invested several long hours in drafting and editing this booklet, which is but the ground work for his big plan: writing a book that covers the free market revolution that he is leading. This is widely practiced elsewhere, but in Israel there has only been one finance minister who wrote a book on his period in office, Yitzhak Moda'i, who wrote about his plans for breaking the hyperinflation in July 1985.
Netanyahu is well aware of history. He knows that what is left behind, after all the arguments, is a book. It is hard to argue with a book, and that booklet from Sunday is the raw material for a book that he is currently working on.
2. Shraga Brosh. The new president of the Manufacturers Association is not one to miss an opportunity. Responding to Netanyahu's news conference, he called on the minister to "add job creation to his list of objectives." Now that sounds good, because who doesn't want high employment? But there is a price to this delightful comment: Brosh wants the treasury to subsidize taking on new staffers. In other words, he wants the treasury to pay NIS 1,000 a month for each new worker that the manufacturers employ. This will not boost employment, but it will boost the industrialists' profits.
3. Limor Livnat. A few days ago, the Central Bureau of Statistics released a document that showed a rise in the number of students matriculating, from 51 percent of high school graduates in 2000 to 56 percent in 2003. A fine achievement for the education minister, wouldn't you say?
But a closer look at the CBS figures shows that the rise is due to "adding a second opportunity for English and math." Moreover, when Livnat took office, she introduced the second opportunity for these two subjects, with the higher mark of the two sittings to be taken into account for matriculation. In other words, removing the risk of the second sitting. These two subjects were frequently the most arduous, and the second papers were invariably easier, so the results were unsurprisingly better. So who needs extra investment in teachers and education, when a little tweak here and a Livnat there makes for a winning formula?
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