Ballot Boxing Clever

The elections will be held between November 2012 and February 2013 and we are already in the midst of an election year which, most regrettably, is being accompanied by a callous 'election economy.'

There's no way the next Israeli elections will take place at the alloted time. The only question is whether they'll be held at the end of this year or the beginning of 2013.

There are people who say Benjamin Netanyahu has a cynical plan with three stages: first, to win the leadership of Likud in the primaries that will be held at the end of this month; then, in June, to attack Iran; and, finally, to hold the elections in November, when he can ride the wave of the successful destruction of Iran's nuclear facilities.

Another version argues that Netanyahu will never decide to attack Iran. By nature, he hates risks and is constantly uncertain. According to this version, after being elected leader of Likud in January, he will strengthen his policy of "doing good for the people." When it's time to present the budget for 2013, it will emerge that there's no escaping sharp spending cuts and imposing heavy demands on the public. But he knows that if he dares to do that, the public will be angry and he personally will come in for severe criticism. Therefore, he won't actually present a 2013 budget but will instead declare early elections, in February 2013.

After all, there is a well-known political law here: After a new government is established, it is possible to make budgetary cuts, issue decrees and institute reforms. The new ministers and Knesset members don't yet know how to revolt against the prime minister and the finance minister, and they accept their leadership and word that it is a necessary rescue program.

In other words, the elections will be held between November 2012 and February 2013 and we are already in the midst of an election year which, most regrettably, is being accompanied by a callous "election economy."

The latest vote in the Knesset about raising the retirement age of women was a good example of this. There was not one righteous person in the whole Knesset who voted against it. Everyone toed the populist line and chose not to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64. Even the finance minister, Yuval Steinitz - who said this was "a terrible mishap and a serious mistake" - voted "present." Netanyahu simply fled from the plenum. Because there was no one who wanted to annoy even one woman who has the right to vote. Who gives a damn about justice and economic stability? The main thing now is the ballot box.

One can also see election fever gaining control of our politicians from the promises that Netanyahu and Steinitz have been showering us with recently. Steinitz assures us that he will force the provident funds, the pension funds and the insurance companies to actively trace the owners of dormant accounts so they will return NIS 15 billion to us. Obviously the real sum is much lower, but what won't people do for a good headline?

Israel Defense Forces pensioners are also enjoying the new political situation. After years of refusal, the finance ministry finally agreed to raise their pensions substantially as part of the reform that links pensions to the inflation index. They succeeded in getting much more than civil service pensioners achieved a few years ago.

Also, take a look at Netanyahu's attitude toward the Trajtenberg Committee's recommendations for social and economic reform. He has turned the committee into a supply station for gifts and benefits. Netanyahu talks about the tax points that fathers and mothers will get; about customs charges that will be dropped from electrical appliances and clothing; about introducing free education for three- to four-year-olds; the establishment of 2,000 new kindergartens and day care facilities for 30,000 children, as well as afternoon care facilities for tens of thousands of others; an exemption for parents from paying for school textbooks and trips, "because it is simply heartbreaking to see parents who have to pay for an annual school trip but don't have the money ... this harms the child's psyche." What a... caring and compassionate human being.

Who remembers the reforms that Netanyahu promised for the electric corporation or the ports? Who remembers his promise to turn the Israel Lands Administration into a land authority that would flood us with cheap plots? And who remembers the planning reform that would do away with bureaucracy and shorten construction time?

These are complicated subjects that cause conflicts with pressure groups and workers' committees. Better to put these to one side at this time and concentrate instead on dishing out fat checks to all the others.

But pay attention - these checks are not for immediate redemption but have been postdated for a year or more. At that time, the elections will have been held and after that, it will be possible to hang the checks like wallpaper, as a souvenir.