Israel's Top ex-Treasury Officials Are Right

Haaretz.
Haaretz Editorial
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Shaul Meridor, left, and Keren Turner Eyal.
Haaretz.
Haaretz Editorial

Shaul Meridor, until recently the head of the budgets division in the Finance Ministry, and Keren Terner, until two months ago the director general of the Finance Ministry, quit their jobs in protest. They did so after they realized that the decision-making process during the coronavirus crisis – which was led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu through his finance minister, Yisrael Katz – was motivated by political and extraneous considerations. On the last “Uvda” television program, both former officials laid out their harsh experiences as public servants exposed to the way decisions were made, until they could no longer take it and resigned.

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The examples of the failures of the management of the coronavirus crisis are many, and Nehemia Shtrasler has provided details of them in Haaretz over the past few months. Among them are Netanyahu’s decision to pay out a “grant for every child” as a Passover gift, even though it was clear that this was money intended to serve as political bribery, and his announcement – immediately after the Knesset approved, after long and drawn out debates, the special budget for the coronavirus crisis of 90 billion shekels – because it added six billion more shekels to this amount. But the worst of all was the “kidnapping” of the budget by Netanyahu, and holding it hostage to avoid carrying out a rotation deal to prevent Benny Gantz from becoming prime minister. Because of Netanyahu, and only because of him, Israel ended 2020 without a state budget, for the second year in a row, and at the height of an enormous economic and health crisis. The subsesquent damage done to millions of Israelis is disastrous.

Meridor and Terner's attempts to convince Katz that a budget was necessary cost them crude personal attacks and their being turned into the enemy of the people. Netanyahu’s attack dogs, including Katz, blackened their names, and presented them as trying to subvert the ministers just because they insisted on defending their professional opinions. But the truth is the exact opposite: Meridor and Terner, and many other senior officials as well, are public servants acting according to the spirit of the law and based on the professional obligation to advance the public interest. In contrast with them, Netanyahu and his slavish ministers are violating the public’s trust for their own personal interests, and have forcibly removed anyone who dares to stand in their way and remind them of their obligations.

In a situation in which Israel is at the mercy of a prime minister who has cheated his partners in government, kept Israel from having a state budget to avoid the transfer of power and has dragged the country into a fourth election, a finance minister with a backbone who is loyal to the public and state and not the whims of their master could have saved the country. Netanyahu’s scheme would not have succeeded if not for his partners in crime. He could not have held the budget hostage and defrauded the public without Katz. Meridor and Terner did everything someone with the public interest at heart were supposed to do, and paid the price for it. The time has come for Netanyahu and his gang of collaborators to pay a price.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.

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