Best at Back-scratching

No one will be surprised if on the eve of the next primaries for the Likud list, the members of the Likud Central Committee find anonymous envelopes in their mailboxes with a copy of the summary of the State Comptroller's Report on the Environment Ministry during Tzachi Hanegbi's tenure.

It is a harsh report. Hanegbi is described as the champion of political appointments. Champion? He's the gold medalist! In the two years in which Hanegbi served as minister, dozens of Central Committee members and members of their families found jobs there.

Every loophole or semi-loophole, crack or crevice were exploited industriously and efficiently by the minister and his senior adviser to squeeze, wedge or cram in yet another unemployed Central Committee member for a job unsuited to his talents. Between January 2001 and March 2003, Hanegbi served as a one-man employment agency, contributing considerably to reducing the level of national unemployment.

In other times, in other cultures, one might think such envelopes would be the work of the minister's rivals. But in these times, in this party, it would not be wise to gamble on that. It is more reasonable to assume that an envelope like that, if it were to be sent to the members of the Likud Central Committee, would be the work of the minister's supporters. Because for the Likud Central Committee members, there is no better or unequivocal character reference than this kind of report, no better or more impressive evidence of a political commitment to those that put him where he is.

It was not chance that put Hanegbi in the top spot on the Likud list for the current Knesset, quite a bit ahead (some 200 votes) of the next contender (Silvan Shalom). He also got more votes than Education Minister Limor Livnat and Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz.

His election was preceded by a notice that informed the Central Committee members that "Hanegbi holds the national record for the appointment of Likud members."

Today, Hanegbi is the Minister of Internal Security, a problematic ministry when it comes to political appointments. On the one hand, Hanegbi can no longer reward his supporters. On the other hand, they don't expect him to appoint them to be district commanders - at least not all of them.

On the eve of the next internal Likud elections, someone will have to refresh the memories of the Central Committee members and tell them what Hanegbi did for them in his previous job.