Bottom Shekel / Confessions of a Finance C'tee Member

"I'm completely preoccupied with the primaries. I don't know anything about the economic stimulus plan," confessed a member of the Knesset Finance Committee yesterday when asked to voice a view on Finance Minister Roni Bar-On's program. Indeed, primaries are scheduled to be held within weeks for Kadima, Labor and Likud, not to mention the smaller parties.

They interest most of the parliamentarians a lot more than economic plans.

Bar-On will have to work hard to woo Knesset members worried about keeping their seats. They won't vote yea unless there's something in it for them. Eli Yishai, chairman of the Shas party which champions the rights of the poor and downtrodden, will apparently only deign to lend his support in exchange for a coup that will boost him in the primaries. For example, more money for daycare.

The Laborites will also be hard to win, unless Bar-On offers them candy too. At least he obtained the support of Likud easily enough. Knesset member Reuven Rivlin claims that Bar-On's whole plan is the brainchild of Likud leader Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu anyway.

Possibly, in view of the emergency looming large, the Knesset members will vote for the program, but not before making the finance minister sweat and wresting some changes for their constituents.