Night for Ben-Noon

Five months ago, on June 4 and 5, Israel was stricken with a rash of power cuts, which caused real damage, and even casualties.

The chief executive of the Israel Electric Corporation, Uri Ben-Noon, was unmoved. He evinced remarkable nonchalance about the power cuts and sneered about "spoiled Israelis" who wilt in the summer heat without their air conditioners and elevators. He even said the "IEC had done nothing wrong".

But an inquiry found that it had, it had in fact done many things wrong. It found that the IEC management had handled the crisis badly, and found that "the conduct of the CEO did not conform to the state of emergency, which impaired functioning at the various echelons of the company during the crisis".

Because the management behaved as though it were business as usual, no sense of crisis filtered down through the ranks, the panel found. Pretty high-placed officials didn't even know that the IEC was systemically cutting power throughout the country, and one result was that ideas for alleviating the trouble were raised too late.

The panel recommended that the CEO reach the apposite conclusions from the grave findings, regarding the functioning of the company, and act to correct the problems before any more crises arise.

Ben-Noon choose not to reach any personal conclusions, though in any other country, a report that damning would have him skulking off into the night. But not only did Ben-Noon not step down: he didn't even fire anybody to protect himself.

Suddenly, now, though, Ben-Noon is changing his manner of reaction. After the IEC was caught transporting a gigantic generator on the night between Friday and Saturday, namely - violating the Sabbath, he immediately upped and fired the logistics manager, Zvi Manor, and suspended the Supply manager, David Nitzan.

The sin of saving life

What was their sin? They heeded the police and tried to prevent economic damage, that's what. Transporting the generator on a regular working day, on a glacially slow truck that spans more than two lanes, would have blocked central traffic arteries, costing precious working hours (and hours and hours), and leading to terrible traffic jams that could have caused casualties as drivers lost patience (couldn't it be argued that moving objects like this on Shabbat saves lives?)

This time around Ben-Noon, who knows which side his challah is buttered on, lost no time in capitulating to the pressures of Infrastructure Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer to the pressures of Infrastructure Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, who for his part capitulated to pressure from the religious party Shas.

Apparently Shabbes and politics matter more than power cuts that paralyzed the country.

Nor does Ben-Noon seem to care about Manor's frantic claim that he didn't even know in advance the generator was being moved on Shabbat, only after the fact. Manor even relates that he was fired in a humiliating fashion, during a management meeting in the presence of 30 top officials, with the CEO, Ben-Noon, accusing him, but not giving him a chance to respond.

Really, why is the buck stopping at the logistics manager? Logic dictates that the veeps above him knew of the transport, and the CEO should have known, too. If Ben-Noon didn?t know, that's a flaw of his management. But in any case, Ben-Noon bears the ministerial responsibility, as it were.

That is what it means to be a leader, for better or worse. If Ben-Noon feels the logistics manager should be summarily fired, he should resign himself with the same alacrity.

But Ben-Noon is probably laughing at that idea all the way to his luxury car, just as he giggled at the thought of quitting because of the June power-outs. At the time, he said with his well-known arrogance, that his work at the IEC is like reserves in the army, and that his wife complains he never sees the grand-kids. Nor does he count his salary, which he has said is a fraction of his monthly pension income.

Since he doesn't care about money, Ben-Noon decided to replace his official IEC car. Why? Because Ben-Noon wants to luxuriate in a new Volkswagen Transporter, executive style, costing NIS 420,000, not settle for that vulgar Volvo that served the former CEO. Every lousy minister has a Volvo, but this is the great soldier, Ben-Noon.