Even at the last minute Benjamin Netanyahu is trying to frighten: Ehud Olmert is planning a left-wing government - Kadima, Labor, Meretz. It seems, however, that most of the public is refusing to be scared. A Haaretz survey predicts 36 seats for Kadima and 18 for Labor. For Netanyahu - who opposed the disengagement from the Gaza Strip and opposes the convergence plan in the West Bank - the survey predicts just 14 seats, which stymies the right from forming a blocking group. Perhaps the public is finally fed up with the warmongering.
Haim Ramon will be the one conducting the coalition negotiations, and he will use every trick and pressure tactic in order to lower the costs. He will have a lot of room to maneuver, so it is hard to tell who the partners will be - after Kadima signs with Labor. We can only make two requests - for the good of Israel.
The first request is that Amir Peretz not receive the finance portfolio. His economic worldview does not mesh with the 21st century. It is simply outmoded. Peretz believes that the government knows better than the citizens concerning their money - hence it is better for government expenditures to grow at the taxpayers' expense. Peretz even wants the government to spend more during a period of rapid economic growth - a basic macroeconomic mistake, because in a growth period the government should actually trim spending in order to serve as an anti-cyclic stabilizer.
But Peretz wants to squander. The economic plan he presents is practically fantastical: a massive increase of NIS 68 billion in government spending and unfounded promises for e-e-everyone - from the Gaza evacuees to the farmers hurt by bird flu. He also speaks of 5 percent annual growth, of course, but it is clear that if he increases the deficit to such an extent, the chances for growth will be negligible - and then there will be no money for the economically weak and for narrowing social gaps.
Peretz is capable of meeting great challenges - such as the foreign ministry portfolio. Or the education portfolio - our biggest problem is the low level of education in the periphery and distressed neighborhoods, which causes the huge wage gaps. Education is the key to solving the social problems - and who but Peretz, who is so familiar with the teachers' unions, knows better how to apply his experience and institute the most important reforms - in the education system.
The second request concerns Shas. According to Haaretz's survey, that party will win 11 seats. If it were up to Shas, a coalition agreement with Kadima would already have been signed in order to bring back child allowances, allowances for married yeshiva students, the Religion Ministry and money for Shas coffers.
Eli Yishai speaks eruditely about the war on poverty, but he is the biggest poverty trader of all, because the poverty in ultra-Orthodox society is deliberate. Graduates of the ultra-Orthodox education system come out with an empty toolbox with respect to employment skills in a modern economy. They do not learn English, math or science - on purpose. In addition, they are encouraged to have large families, resulting in total dependence on the honest Knesset members - like Shlomo Benizri and Yair Peretz - who obtain some grants, allowances and study stipends for them. It is therefore clear who gets their votes, and this is the true embodiment of Zionism.
Shas' spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, has already broken all the records. At first he said that anyone voting for Shas would go to paradise; then he threatened that anyone voting for Kadima would go to hell. How much contempt and cynicism does it take to perform such despicable manipulations on the electorate - a kind of instantaneous reward and punishment? There's no need to wait for the Day of Atonement, or do an accounting of good and bad deeds. The accounting will be done today, in the voting booth, based on one variable - the vote.
On top of all these, ever since Aryeh Deri left the party, Shas has become radically right-wing. It opposed the disengagement from Gaza and now opposes the convergence in the West Bank. Will Olmert have Prime Minister Ariel Sharon' wisdom - and refrain from including Shas in his government?
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