Doron Rosenblum - Eran Wolkowski - April 6, 2012
Illustration by Eran Wolkowski
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Stainless Steel Lady discovers Shaul Mofaz’s charm

She’s said to be a kind of retroactive amulet, someone who brings luck to everyone who has won an election and ascended to power, whether in the party or in government − but in retrospect. Because in the victory celebrations, who would notice that the man had already won, but that it was only after the fact, a few seconds late, that she brought him luck? As she pushed her way into the crowd on stage that was celebrating his victory, it seemed as if they had just ripped up the finish line together at the end of an exhausting political marathon; that they had reached the Promised Land in tandem; that she had always known he would win. No, that they would win.
But the heart has its reasons for feeling as it does. Somehow, the losers, by definition, never did it for her. But the winners were always drawn to her by magic ropes, or maybe lassos, especially after their election victories. And oddly enough, somehow, it always turned out that the person whose cosmic charms she had just discovered, of her own free will, was busy at that particular moment − what terrible timing! − being elected by a sweeping majority to the leadership of something.

A case in point: Just as she discovered the sublime essence of mature, ripe Polishness of the old generation, who should pop up out of nowhere but Shimon Peres, just as he was elected/appointed to his party’s leadership, the premiership, a ministerial portfolio, the presidency. It was only because of the exclusion of old people that she didn’t reject outright the political patronage and all the goodies he wanted to ply her with, along with his insistence on teaching her the “yell your way to the top” method. And afterward, when she discovered that there was something to be said for tall, loud, bold-faced Jaffa types − she just happened to encounter Haim Ramon; as it happened, he just happened to be busy putting together a ticket and winning the Histadrut labor federation elections.

Ehud Barak made a point of running into her just as she developed an attraction for ex-kibbutzniks who fix watches, just as − by a stroke of tough luck − he was elected prime minister. And in the winter, when Barak turned out to be all bark and the heart yearned for a little human warmth, she agonized between two hefty bears: Ariel Sharon and Benjamin Ben-Eliezer. Heaven only knows where they found the time for her − one being a prime minister, the other the leader of a party − but the fact is that they both fell ill in the end. And that, as it happened, was just when she came to appreciate the innate qualities of Jerusalem lawyers who have an affinity for real estate, collect pens for a hobby and unexpectedly become prime minister.
Until the final moment in the Kadima primary, she agonized unflinchingly between the intolerable arrogance and ineptness of Tzipi Livni, a person of the past, and the human warmheartedness and phenomenal industriousness of Shaul Mofaz, the man of the future. It was only out of fairness that she kept her opinion to herself. Only after Mofaz’s election did she agree to reveal − in full disclosure − which of them had her heart all along. In this case, you’ll be surprised to hear, it happened to be the winner.
“Get off the stage!” she screamed at all the opportunists, as she climbed and clawed her way up there. “Get off the stage!”

Some say Alterman had her in mind when he wrote ‏(in T. Carmi’s translation‏), “The woman said: My God, you have appointed me since days of old to fall at the feet of the living, and to stand at the head of the dead.” But others say that’s nonsense.

Gridi Fresser feels stirrings of social consciousness

For some time, Gridi ‏(“Gidi”‏) Fresser − board chairman of WTF, CEO of the OMG holding company, and board member of another half-dozen private and public companies in Israel and abroad − was rankled by a certain feeling of discrimination.
He bore the feeling quietly, without complaint or showing any sign of it, but lately it had become omnipresent: lurking in the dark, fluttering in the corners of his consciousness and sometimes emerging full force, like the first mosquito of the spring.

We said “a certain feeling,” and we were not wrong. After all, everything is relative. You will say, and rightly so, that the feeling of discrimination harbored by Gridi Fresser, who recently wormed his way onto the list of the top wage earners in the country and on the planet Earth, is not the same type of discrimination harbored by a sauerkraut processor in a Galilee conserves plant that has been shut down.
Still, the feeling was there, lodged in his heart. And eventually it was joined by its grouchy, ulcerous sister: bitterness.

It had always been there, in the background, in the recesses of his consciousness − this feeling of discrimination-cum-bitterness. Even when he sipped his coffee of a morning from the heights of his three-story penthouse, his gaze wandering from the smokestacks of Ashdod in the south to the smokestacks of Hadera in the north; even when he leaned on the fallow deer-leather seat of his Cadillac; even when he had his photo taken with cigar and smile at conferences and gala events.

Externally, Fresser would seem to be an object of envy. Not only of the plebs from the lower crumbs but also of his peers from the upper crust: the man who every three years on average gets a golden parachute of tens of millions from the companies he smashes successively into the side of the mountain. Not to mention the fat bonuses of tens of millions, plus expenses and hush money, which he gets for dissolving companies and for bankruptcies. This is, after all, a man who inherited billions and managed in a short time to make them millions, which allowed him to control – in return for a fistful of shekels – companies worth trillions.

Why, then, the bitterness? The feeling of discrimination? Only people who are woefully ignorant about our economy would ask that. In fact, a superficial glance at the graph of the biggest wage earners for 2011 showed Fresser that he had been demoted to the lower ranks of the top 10. Certainly in comparison to the salary of Roni Elroi, the outgoing CEO of GTC, who raked in NIS 29 million, even though his company lost 270 million euro. By contrast, the total cost of our friend Fresser’s salary was no more than NIS 28,010,000 − even though WTF under his leadership had succeeded in achieving full dissolution and bankruptcy. If that’s not discrimination, what is?

In other words, Fresser didn’t know how he would make it through the month. Moreover, when he perused the list of his colleagues, some of whom had worked two weeks for NIS 6.5 million ‏(he himself had made NIS 2 million, mere pennies, in a few days‏), or had earned NIS 3.1 million when managing an oil company that didn’t find oil ‏(he himself had earned NIS 1.5 million − almost like volunteering − after dismantling a company that was supposed to set up cotton gins in Uzbekistan‏), or had been paid NIS 12 million by a company that had received an “ongoing entity warning” ‏(an affectionate epithet used by the economy’s top percentile, to mean “death certificate”), whereas he himself had earned only NIS 10 million for a similar achievement.

It was then that he started to understand Daphni Leef, Itzik Shmuli and their comrades.

The bitterness and sense of discrimination ripened to a fully aware decision: This summer, if his salary were not upgraded, Fresser would not sit idly by. For him, too, it would be the mo-mo-mother of all protests.

An existential monetary philosopher fires a logical-scientific missile

And after again appearing live on television and offering a plethora of rationales concerning why he as finance minister − along with the prime minister and the governor of the Bank of Israel – were against lowering gasoline taxes, he again heard, while removing his makeup with a damp tissue, that his master Netanyahu had again decided to reverse the decision behind his back, and just while the show was being broadcast.

Sartre, the philosopher and colleague, said that man is condemned to be free. Yes, but he didn’t say which man he meant.