Rothman's Future Hangs in the Balance

Government Companies Authority director general Eyal Gabbai is likely to decide the outcome of the dispute that is splitting the Israel Electric Corporation board of directors over the dismissal of chairman Shlomo Rothman.

Gabbai will determine whether Rothman has acted under a severe conflict of interest, or whether he was the victim of those trying to prematurely replace him.

The hearing which was held yesterday for Rothman by the GCA could determine the future of his position at the IEC. Rothman, formerly a senior figure at the First International Bank of Israel, does not need the IEC job. He is a well-connected public figure who enjoys the status and influence that the position gives him, or, in his own words, "I came to influence the economy and move things."

He was appointed by the previous national infrastructures minister, Eliezer Sandberg, but has the trust of the incumbent, Binyamin Ben-Eliezer.

In recent weeks it seems as if the board of directors of the largest company in the country is united in its desire to see the back of Rothman, owing to a string of violations, and suspected criminal actions. Three weeks ago, the company's management decided to ask the attorney general and the GCA for an opinion on the matter. In the meantime, the board banned Rothman from all discussions concerning money and tenders - the main items for which he is responsible. Rothman called the decision illegal.

Rothman was appointed to his position in October 2004, and has since managed to accumulate a bevy of enemies within the IEC board and management. In one of the high points of the dispute between him and the board, Rothman claimed that the criticism of his conduct stemmed from the fact that his opponents wanted his job. In reaction to this, every one of the board members stated for the record that he had no interest in replacing Rothman in his position. Rothman's confidants claim that the campaign against him is connected to his efforts to promote the reform of the company.

The board, on the other hand, accuses the chairman of not doing enough to promote the reform which he claims to support.