Servant, of Which Public?

Sharon Kedmi
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Sharon Kedmi

What was attorney Anat Klein thinking? What was the management of Paz thinking, when they appointed her to be the legal counsel? Did they really think that her appointment would go unnoticed?

Working at the Antitrust Authority, Klein had been deeply involved in antitrust matters involving Paz. She had been involved in the decision, which worked in Paz's favor, forbidding Dor-Alon and Sonol to merge.

Her shift from the Antitrust Authority to Paz, without a cooling-off period at that, is not just a minor matter. It was bound to stir up a whole bunch of questions.

Now that the affair has been exposed, her appointment may be mooted. But the principle still bears discussion.

The former accountant general at the treasury, Nir Gilad, almost drowned in the mud thrown at him when he started work at The Israel Corporation - and that was a full four years after he had led the process that turned over $135 million in taxpayer money to the Ofer brothers in return for their waiving their rights over the Oil Refineries.

Klein and Paz did not even wait for the ink to dry on the Supreme Court's decision on the Dor Alon and Sonol merger - or on the closing of the sale of the Ashdod oil refineries to Paz - before they started negotiating a job for Klein at Paz.

Klein is supposed to be the deputy legal counsel at Paz. She would be responsible for the refining sector, among other areas.

The refineries, of course, were added to Paz only with the purchase of the Ashdod oil refinery. Even if Klein is a devoted, hard-working employee; and as honest as they say she is in - and outside - the Antitrust Authority, the appointment stinks, and raises questions as to conflicts of interest.

Klein has previously handled matters dealing directly with Paz, in particular those relating to Pi Glilot and its privatization.

It's true that in that case, Klein helped formulate a decision that Paz did not like: to require the company to sell its interests in Pi Glilot if it bought the Ashdod refineries. But at the same time, she was exposed to a long list of figures and information on the energy sector in general, and Paz's competitors in particular.

Even worse, although she was not actually part of the Antitrust Authority's team that handled the Dor Alon and Sonol merger - a merger that was blocked due to the authority's firm stance against it - she still was exposed to the information that passed through the department.

In fact, the most sensitive financial information belonging to the oil companies was laid out before the authority's economics department, and no one can guarantee who saw what and when - even if for the purest of motives.

And now who can possibly tell chairman David Wiessman of Dor Alon - who has long been complaining of a conspiracy and personal vendetta against him - that he is wrong. Someone who was a member of this group that he learned to hate so much in recent months is now likely to become one of the senior officials at his competitor. And who dare can say to Wiessman that there is nothing to his conspiracy theory - even if it has no basis in reality.

There is no reason that Klein cannot go to work for Paz, but only after she waits for the appropriate cooling-off period, as every government official must do.

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