Hanoch Levin Couldn't Have Done It Better

Even those who view the disengagement plan as an important one that could extricate Israel from the cycle of violence must feel revulsion at the sight of Labor crawling toward the government.

Even those who view the disengagement plan as an important one that could extricate Israel from the cycle of violence must feel revulsion at the sight of Labor crawling toward the government.

In their passion to see themselves once again sitting around the cabinet table as ministers and in view of their inability to fulfill the vital role of opposition, the Labor MKs are willing to do absolutely whatever it takes to win a coveted minister's Volvo.

Logic would have it that Sharon needs them more than they need him, because without Labor he has no government. They are behaving, however, as if just the opposite were true. They have not succeeded in changing anything in Benjamin Netanyahu's economic-social plan - despite their promises - and when all is said and done they did not receive any major portfolios.

Shimon Peres, a man of so many accomplishments, could easily find himself in the middle of a farce by Hanoch Levin. He has managed to grovel and at the same time to take offense: "Did I ask to change the law?"

Peres never does anything "for himself," but without out the title of "deputy prime minister," he cannot advance the disengagement. The future after this humiliating groveling does not bode well. It now turns out, for example, that the leaders of the local governments, both from the Likud and Labor, are "working energetically to promote the appointment of Benjamin Ben-Eliezer as minister of the interior." They know why, too. Until now, they had a bad interior minister, one with whom it was not possible to close deals, carry out political appointments, transfer funds and manipulate budgets. They found the recovery plans he instituted intolerable: What do you mean mayors are required to streamline and economize?

Ben-Eliezer (an ace in the area of political appointments) will quickly fix everything that Avraham Poraz ruined. The Labor MKs have not yet assimilated the fact that the budget deficit has far-reaching economic implications. Yuli Tamir (a ministerial candidate), said this week, "The Labor Party must not agree to Netanyahu's tricks: a cutback of 3 percent in the budgets of the government ministries." Indeed, a nasty trick. How dare he be responsible and preserve the expenditures framework? For Tamir, Labor can squeeze NIS 600 million and United Torah Judaism another NIS 300 million - and Netanyahu has to sit quietly and see the budget breached, swelling the "fat" (the public sector) ever more at the expense of the "thin" (the business sector). Of course, when the breaching of the budget causes an increase in the national debt, a rise in interest, reduced growth and more unemployment and poverty, Tamir will be the first to blame Netanyahu.

The entry of Labor into the government also endangers the reforms that are in the pipeline. The reform of the nation's ports is supposed to become effective in February, so we can expect a big strike in January. Will the Labor ministers take a stand in the struggle against the port workers' committees? Will they support the promotion of reforms in the Israel Electric Corporation? Will they enable the removal of the pension and trust funds from the banks - or will they once again stand at the side of the wealthy and strong committees at the expense of Israel's citizens?

Will the Labor ministers continue to oppose the increase in the price of water to farmers, so that only city dwellers pay the cost of desalination? And what will be the fate of the plan to split up the refineries? Will the Labor ministers agree to advance the necessary reform in the Israel Lands Administration to enable all citizens to purchase rather than lease land? Will they do what it takes to advance the sale of Israel Discount Bank and Bank Leumi to private investors? And, in the meantime, instead of doing away with the ministry of communications, as decided by the Sharon government, they are now reestablishing it in order to create a job for yet another minister. Will that minister continue the communications revolution?

These questions arise in view of the archaic worldview of the Labor Party, which has not yet assimilated the fact that the world has changed, that the old ideologies have died, that even Communist China is taking giant steps forward toward a market economy, a reduction in government intervention, privatization and competition.