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Three Slippery Politicians and a Policy Wonk

Sa’ar isn’t the most honest of men, Katz is a wheeler-dealer and Kahlon has shown extreme cynicism, but at least legal scholar Roy Shapira has spoken some sense

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Gideon Sa'ar, left, and Yisrael Katz in 2014, the year Sa'ar took a timeout from politics.
Gideon Sa'ar, left, and Yisrael Katz in 2014, the year Sa'ar took a timeout from politics.Credit: Marc Israel Sellem

Gideon Sa’ar. A day before the Likud primary, Benjamin Netanyahu’s nemesis Gideon Sa’ar said on television that the prime minister had invented an imaginary plot that his fellow Likudnik was trying to oust him. Sa’ar said Netanyahu was creating “imaginary enemies” and spreading false rumors. About whom? About the most honest of men: Sa’ar.

But the following day, during the primary, Sa’ar said: “Now we will join hands so Likud, headed by Netanyahu, can set up a government …. He’s the most suitable.” Wait, a day earlier you said this guy was a mentally ill person, a liar and a crook, and now you want him to lead us?

The truth is, Sa’ar isn’t worthy of being a Knesset member, and certainly not a minister. The case of whether convenience stores should be allowed to open on Shabbat in Tel Aviv proves it. In the middle of 2014, Sa’ar announced that he had started observing Shabbat “in my own way.” Then he decided that Tel Aviv’s 420,000 residents would also observe Shabbat “in his own way.”

This is what he used his power as interior minister for, pushing to close convenience stores on Friday nights and Saturdays. What repulsive paternalism. What annoying condescension. How arrogant do you have to be to do that? That’s Sa’ar all over.

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But as it turns out, there is a God. While fighting the city’s residents, King David was born – Sa’ar’s son – and his father took a timeout from politics to gaze at him. There were other reasons, too. That’s why Sa’ar failed to complete his scheme in Tel Aviv. If Netanyahu forms a government, Sa’ar isn’t worthy of being a minister.

Yisrael Katz. The transportation minister has proved once again that what counts in the primary are the deals, the capitulation to unions, and partisan wheeling and dealing, rather than doing the job you’re tasked with as a minister.

On primary day, railway passengers suffered harsh glitches for the thousandth time, until the Israel Railways CEO had to announce that they would be compensated immediately. He also said “the public is about to undergo six very difficult years on the rail system” – because of renovations – as if we hadn’t undergone six such years so far.

Add to this the Jerusalem railway-line fiasco, the insane delays in building the Tel Aviv light rail, the objection to Uber, the strengthening of the Israel Airports’ Authority’s monopoly via Ramon Airport, and the endless traffic jams.

Katz, who has been transportation minister for 10 years, is responsible for this colossal failure. And what does he get in return? A second-place finish in the Likud primary, putting him third on the slate.

Moshe Kahlon. The High Court of Justice this week instructed the finance minister to immediately increase the tax on loose tobacco to make it equal to that on cigarettes. The court ruled that Kahlon had breached the “right to health.” The anti-cancer society said the low tax on loose tobacco was responsible for the spike in tobacco consumption, which severely harms public health.

Kahlon claimed, with his usual populism, that he was looking out for poor people. If that isn’t the height of cynicism, what is? The justices said tobacco smoking reduces life expectancy by 10 to 15 years, thus many young people who have gotten addicted could have been saved.

Roy Shapira. By law, senior civil servants who seek to work in the private sector must undergo a one-year cooling-off period. According to a study by Roy Shapira, an Israeli legal scholar, the authorities take a lenient approach and shorten this period.

Shapira suggests that Israel adhere more strictly to the cooling-off period, to prevent conflicts of interest and a revolving-door policy. This makes sense. But what bothers me is that politicians don’t have a cooling-off period. A minister can finish his job one day and the next day move to a company for which he approved a grant or reduced taxes the previous week.

The same goes for Knesset members. I wonder why our lawmakers refuse to impose a cooling-off period on themselves. Maybe because they’re looking out for their financial futures? No way. After all, they support Shapira’s strict conclusions, as long as it’s about preventing the corruption of others. Not theirs, heaven forbid.

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