Dankner Isn't the Enemy

All those rejoicing at the fall of Israeli tycoon Nochi Danker must understand that if his empire crumbles, many Israelis will pay the price.

One of the human race's most miserable qualities is malicious joy. Many languages have an idiom to describe the feeling of schadenfreude, despite the verse in Proverbs, "Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth, and let not thy heart be glad when he stumbleth."

If such words of wisdom apply to an enemy, they must surely be true concerning those who aren't enemies - and businessman Nochi Dankner is no enemy.

All who rejoice at Dankner's downfall should reconsider. They must understand that if his empire crumbles and collapses into chaos, many will pay the price - in layoffs, in wage cuts and in the wider impact of the slowing down of the economy's growth. Many see the potential collapse of the IDB group as proof that the private market is an evil system that harms savers; they forget that during most of the last decade the private-business sector bloomed and earned significantly high returns for pension and provident funds. It would be best to remember the sunshine even when it rains.

One also shouldn't forget that IDB controls several huge companies that should exist independently of Dankner's fortunes: Super-Sol, Cellcom, Clal Insurance, Koor Industries and Nesher. Even if Dankner is forced to hand over his empire to a new investor, all these companies will continue to function, produce and sell. The new owner will replace the executives and they will carry out recovery plans that will save and improve the companies, so that we can all enjoy their products and so that their workers will continue to make a living.

That is precisely the strength of the private sector: It can handle crises. It can cure itself. It knows when to change owners and choose a new direction - which is the exact opposite of how things happen in the public sector. When a crisis occurs in the public sector, the management and workers don't even work up a sweat. They know the government will put its hand in its pocket and pull out billions of shekels, all at the taxpayer's expense. The recovery plan of the Israel Broadcasting Authority has already cost NIS 770 million, while the same government has refused to allow the privately owned Channel 10 to delay repayment of its NIS 60 million debt.

And take the Israel Electricity Corporation, for example, which is practically bankrupt due to a NIS 63 billion debt it cannot pay. But instead of dictating a recovery plan, the state supplies more guarantees, which will eventually be paid by the public, via electricity prices or the budget.

And, of course, we shouldn't forget the Port Authority with sky-high wages and rock-bottom efficiency and competitiveness, or the Airports Authority, whose union has no qualms about declaring strikes on holidays; and, naturally, Israel Military Industries, which have received some NIS 7 billion of the taxpayers' money throughout the years, and still demand more.

The public sector has no fear of bankruptcy or of a "going concern" warning. It offers total, everlasting tenure, inefficiency, waste and the ongoing rule of workers' unions. Therefore, even though there are business failures every now and then, the correct model of management is in the private, not the public, sector.

Dankner committed numerous errors in his business transactions. He took unnecessary risks. He took huge loans, which were the cause of his downfall. He was too adventurous in his investment in Credit Suisse bank, paid way too much for land in Las Vegas, and chose the worst time to purchase the Maariv publishing company.

One can justifiably rage at the exaggerated wages Dankner and his executives drew. These wages should be returned to the companies' coffers. But after all the criticism, one must remember that Dankner isn't the enemy, and therefore he should be given a fair chance to heal his group. He should be allowed to find a new investor, as well as sell several of the companies - a move that would decrease the size of the pyramid and pump new funds into the group.

Dankner should be replaced only if he fails to complete the healing process. Meanwhile, we should overcome that base human quality of malicious joy.