Time for Israelis to Stop Being Suckers

We have waited so many years for the knight on the white horse to arrive and rip the mask off the face of the cellular companies that have treated us with such contempt. And lo and behold Golan has arrived.

Even though he is only 33 years old, he has already succeeded in figuring out the secret of Israeli genius. And even though he is a new immigrant who came to this country only six years ago, he has already understood fully what bothers the Israeli most: being taken for a sucker.

That is why, at his press conference a couple of weeks ago, when he presented Golan Telecom's business model for cell-phone service, he declared emphatically: "Enough with being suckers!" and in this way, he won the hearts of the public. Then Michael Golan added with pathos: "The right price, the natural price, the real price, is NIS 99 per month," he proclaimed, citing the company's fixed monthly price for unlimited calls. Had it been possible, the public would have drowned him in kisses.

We have waited so many years for the knight on the white horse to arrive with a storm and rip the mask off the face of the cellular companies that have treated us with contempt. We have waited so long for someone to come and take revenge on our behalf against Pelephone, Cellcom and Partner for the long years when they abused us, for the fees that were not clear, the twisted and contorted and blown-up bills that no one understood. And lo and behold, Golan has arrived and made it possible for us to walk with our heads held high. Now we are no longer suckers, at least not in the sphere of cellular phones.

But there are still many other areas in which we are being taken for a ride, big time. For example, the big businessmen who took loans from us worth billions, via the provident funds and the banks, and with this money, bought gigantic monopolies and built splendid pyramids that cost us heavily. And when they failed, they tried to get their debt trimmed and continued to live it up at the same crazy standard of living, as if nothing had happened.

Now it is true that it is also possible to fail in business, but it is not acceptable on the one hand not to return debts and on the other hand to continue building luxury homes, to travel in a private plane and to hold extravagant weddings. They don't go together. That turns us into total suckers - and that is something that we really do not like.

There is nothing more annoying than the fantastic salaries that the controlling owners of businesses and their senior directors drew during the "good" years, without paying any price at all during the current "bad" years. The list of those who benefited from bloated salaries is long and vexing: Amos Shapira, NIS 50 million in seven years; Gil Sharon, NIS 46 million over five years; Ami Harel, NIS 45 million over eight years; David Avner, NIS 28 million over three years; Shlomo Rodav, NIS 25 million over four years; Nochi Dankner, NIS 55 million over eight years; Zvi Livnat, NIS 37 million over eight years; Efi Rosenhaus, NIS 45 million over eight years; Avraham Bigger, NIS 44 million over five years. And that is only a partial list.

It must be made clear to all: There is no CEO who is worth such sums. In other words, this is an infuriating deal in which the companies are milked at the expense of the public shareholders. This is the opposite of a fair market economy.

The big workers' unions are also laughing at us. They control the government monopolies like the Israel Electric Corporation, the sea ports, the Airport Authority, the large banks, Israel Railways, the Israel Lands Administration and the military industries. They live off the fat of the land with bloated salaries and ironclad tenure, and the public is forced to pay more for every product and service.

The public is also no longer prepared to accept the discrimination in taxes. It is impossible to constantly raise income tax, national insurance, and health taxes, and to let large companies like Teva, Iscar, Israel Chemicals, Intel, and Check Point pay a ridiculous corporate tax of only 6 to 12 percent because of laws that favor those who are the richest.

It is impossible to continue with a situation in which ultra-Orthodox men do not work but get billions of shekels from the state. It is impossible to tolerate any longer a situation in which 23 percent of the economic activity is carried out on the black market and no tax whatsoever is paid on it. It is impossible to allow the upper class, that is the settlers, to continue to get unlimited budgets while inside the Green Line there are plans to make cuts to everything that moves.

This feeling of being "left out of the game" is the basis for the social protest, and this is what Golan tapped into with his succinct slogan: "Time to stop being suckers."