Eli Yishai in First Place

Polls show Shas dropping. There is reward and punishment in politics after all.

Eli Yishai easily takes the cake for irresponsibility. His cynicism knows no bounds. His explanations are not serious, and the only thing that interests Yishai is how to win in his internal party struggle with Ariel Atias.

Poor children don't really interest him. Nor do poor families, and not even the "World of Torah," which is so important to Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. The fact is Yishai could have improved the situation of each of them, but preferred his own personal interests.

Tzipi Livni gave in to him in principle. Even though she does not believe in welfare stipends, she still offered him an additional NIS 600 million for child stipends and NIS 350 million for yeshivas, all in order to form a government. The deal would have given every family with four or more children an extra NIS 300 a month and helped to save the "Torah World," which is in bad shape due to the steep drop in donations from the U.S.

If it was up to Livni, she would have given Shas additional funds, intended to encourage going out to work, but that did not interest Yishai. He wanted elections based on the fake claim of discrimination, which will allow him to block Atias for a few more years.

Yishai presents himself as someone who looks out for the good of poor children and seeks to narrow the social gaps. But the truth is exactly the opposite: Meeting his coalition demands would only increase poverty and gaps.

Yishai is in love with poverty. He wants poor voters. He fears that if the ultra-Orthodox take responsibility, if the number of children in their families continues to drop and their participation in the workforce increases, they will free themselves from poverty and become independent - and that would endanger Shas' control over them. Therefore, Yishai is working to return the child stipends to their previous size, to keep his public drugged, since the stipends are like heroin injected straight into a vein. At first it feels very good, but the next day you wake up with a hangover and a horrible headache.

If Yishai truly wanted to deal with the poverty in the ultra-Orthodox community, he should have pressured Livni to make sure the curriculum of the Shas-sponsored El Hama'ayan educational system included all the "free" subjects, taught at the very highest level: science, computers, mathematics and English. All these would prepare the young for a life of employment, which is the only way they can pull themselves out of poverty.

Second prize in the irresponsibility pageant goes to Ehud Barak. He took no account whatsoever of the economic crisis and the budget situation, and just sought recognition and status. He forced Livni to add hundreds of millions to the ministries held by Labor (one helping for Isaac Herzog, a nice package for Benjamin Ben-Eliezer and a bit more for Shalom Simhon) so everyone would have something to hand out during the primaries, with no connection whatsoever to growth or employment.

Barak also demanded a special increase for pensioners, and left Rafi Eitan no choice but to demand even more. The pensioners are still the home court of the Pensioners Party, and if Labor demanded NIS 950 million for them, Eitan needed to demand NIS 3 billion.

If Barak really cared about the economic situation and stability, he would have asked for nothing at all. He would have said that during these days, as a financial hurricane is ravaging the entire world, it is inappropriate to demand "achievements." He would have explained that it is necessary to save every shekel for an emergency plan, if necessary. After all, much larger and stronger countries have already spent hundreds of billions on rescue plans.

If Barak cared about growth and employment, he would have said that now is the time to prepare for a rise in unemployment, which would force the government to transfer money to professional retraining, unemployment compensation and programs to create jobs. Therefore, not one cent should be spent on political caprice based on narrow interests.

Barak could have raised the bar, and Yishai and Eitan would have been left no choice but to join the government without any demands. But Barak wanted "achievements" and in the end was left with a humiliating agreement that will never be implemented.

Imagine a private business running into trouble. Its market shrinks, its credit disappears and its capital lessens. In such a situation the firm decides to fire its CEO, remove the CFO, get rid of the marketing director and at the same time to waste a billion shekels on a party and to go a vacation for a few months.

This would never happen in the business world, but it is certainly possible in politics. While the treasury and Bank of Israel are busy putting together emergency plans and preparing for a possible recession, Barak, Yishai and Eitan have decided this is exactly the time to upset the apple cart, change the entire leadership, waste billions on elections, freeze reforms, not pass the budget in the Knesset and paralyze the government for months. It's the height of irresponsibility.

But the public apparently understands very well with whom it is dealing. Polls published yesterday show Shas dropping, Labor crashing and the Pensioners disappearing. There is reward and punishment in politics after all.