Treasury Officials to PM's Advisers: Your Economic Plan Is Illegal

Finance minister accuses Olmert of circumventing treasury in formulating far-reaching bailout plan.

Four top treasury officials on Sunday accused two top advisers to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of acting illegally by trying to circumvent Finance Ministry authority and creating their own emergency economic plan, which goes further than the treasury's proposed plan.

While the unusually harsh letter was addressed to Prime Minister's Office director general Raanan Dinur and PMO National Economic Council head Manuel Trajtenberg, it essentially is a strike by Finance Minister Roni Bar-On at Olmert, who for many years was considered a close friend.

"We ask you to stop any activity that exceeds your areas of responsibility and is understood as obligating the government," wrote Finance Ministry director general Yarom Ariav, budget department head Rami Belinkov, accountant general Shuki Oren and capital market commissioner Yadin Anatbi. "We ask you to refrain from making commitments in the name of the State of Israel regarding anything related to state assets, state guarantees [and] the state budget, and from taking action on matters relating to the regulation of the institutional bodies."

Dinur and Trajtenberg told the treasury officials they were acting in Olmert's name.

"We acted in the name of the prime minister and his directives, which as you know, do not require your permission," they wrote. "In these consultations, no agreement was signed, and in any case, there was no damage done to the authority of any entity in the Finance Ministry."

The treasury officials' letter comes after Bar-On discovered over the weekend that Olmert, who has been considered his good friend for decades, had drafted his own plan to provide provident and pension fund customers with a safety net insuring their money, a plan the treasury vehemently opposes. The letter was sent with Bar-On's knowledge.

Olmert met with Histadrut labor federation chairman Ofer Eini and Manufacturers Association president Shraga Brosh on Friday, and they came up with a plan to expand the safety net proposed by the treasury, lowering the Finance Ministry's proposed eligibility age from 60 to 55 and paying retroactive compensation from the beginning of the financial crisis, instead of the treasury's proposed December starting date.

The treasury officials accuse Dinur and Trajtenberg of conducting negotiations behind the Finance Ministry's back, saying: "They are not coordinated with us, they are conducted by those who are not authorized to obligate the state, the ideas raised in these negotiations are not budgeted, they do not reflect professional staff work of the bodies experienced in these matters, and they have not been examined through the prism of the serious ramifications liable to stem from them."

On Sunday morning, Knesset Finance Committee chairman Avishay Braverman broke up a committee meeting that had been slated to approve the Finance Ministry's two economic rescue plans. Braverman did so after agreeing to Olmert's request not to hold the vote on Sunday.

The treasury was seeking committee approval for one plan calling for intensive investment in infrastructure, and another for financial assistance for the banks and other institutions.