Analysis / Sharon vs. Bibi in the compassion war
The closer elections loom - and they are expected to take place in the first half of 2006 - the more "social" Sharon and Netanyahu become. They both know the public likes the one who presents himself as a knight in shining armor caring for the weak, the unemployed, and the handicapped. Therefore, they miss no opportunity to present themselves as such.
Netanyahu spoke yesterday about compassion, while Sharon glories in the social clauses that he was able to put into the plan by twisting Netanyahu's arm.
But the truth is a little different. The budget people in the Finance Ministry weren't born yesterday. They know they will have to hand Sharon some achievements that he can wave at the media. Therefore, they have set aside a few bonbons to hand out, and for two weeks they negotiated with Sharon over their participation in the plan. Now it's all being presented as Sharon's big social plan. So let it.
What is more important is that all these moves are part of correct ecomomic practices to encourage people to go out to work, while increasing aid to those who are no longer in the workforce - senior citizens, for example. This was the principle underlying the reduction in National Insurance Institute deductions for low income earners, the reduction in taxes for the middle class, the awarding of tax credits to people who go out to work, the creation of a program to encourage the disabled to work, the pre-school subsidies for working mothers, and increasing old-age benefits.
Some try to argue that the reason for the plan's presentation is a slowdown in the growth rate, and a tax cut will encourage growth. But the real reason for the plan is an overabundance of tax money that "fell" into the treasury. There is nothing more dangerous than the the pre-election period. Because the moment politicians smell there's money in the till, they take all kinds of plans out of storage designed to increase spending and buy voters, and at that, the Labor Party, Sharon's bureau, and all Knesset members are experts. And so the treasury and Netanyahu are one step ahead, and have already emptied out the coffers.