Hard Look / Is a Failed Minister Suitable to Serve as Prime Minister?

Admittedly, I can't express an intelligent opinion on Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. Her ministry doesn't deal with economics and I haven't been keeping track of the ministry's activity. I have no idea whether Livni has been a good, great or terrible foreign minister.

The Transportation Ministry, on the other hand, touches directly on economics. TheMarker follows its activities. As a result, I can express a firm opinion on the performance of Shaul Mofaz as transportation minister, and it isn't a particularly positive one.

For instance, we couldn't miss the ministry's stellar performance during the most recent breakdown at the ports. The crisis arose due to a proposal, wedged into the Economic Arrangements Law, to restructure the Israel Ports Corp. The fact that the reform of the Ports Corp had absolutely nothing to do with employment terms at the Ashdod or Haifa ports (which operate under entirely different companies) is neither here nor there. The real point is that the Transportation Ministry has shirked reforms at the ports that it itself initiated.

Reform of the ports began with Mofaz empowering a public committee to reach conclusions about the ports' malfunctioning during the Second Lebanon War. The committee's main conclusion was that the organizational structure of Israel Ports should be changed.

The ministry adopted the commission's conclusions and its director general, Gideon Siterman, handled preliminary preparations for executing the recommendations. Among other things, Siterman convinced the treasury that the reform was needed, and the treasury agreed for its part to include it in the Economic Arrangements Law.

Everything was fine and dandy until the port workers decided to make the planned changes to Israel Ports - which has nothing to do with them - cause for a labor dispute. Their real goal was apparently to stop the government from taking other steps that would indeed affect them, such as forcing competition by allowing the construction of new wharfs to be operated by private companies.

Faced by the port workers' ire, the ministry caved in, even accusing the treasury of including it in the Economic Arrangements Law without "preliminary discussion" with the workers. Transport left the treasury stained as the bad guy persecuting workers.

"Everyone knows that we enlisted a lot of voters for Mofaz among port workers," the chairman of the Ashdod port union stated at a labor tribunal hearing, accusing finance minister Roni Bar-On, who supports Livni to head the Kadima party, of persecuting Mofaz-supporting port workers.

Many believe the case to be exactly the opposite: that Mofaz scurried to give in to workers' demands after the mass registration of port workers to the Kadima party.

The fact is, Mofaz didn't surrender just the restructuring of Israel Ports. He sacrificed the price of gas at the pump. The reform of fuel import tariffs that the ministry labored on for two years, and which was set to dramatically cut tariffs on imports of fuel derivatives in Israel, has been delayed for more than a month. For reasons that remain unclear, the minister is in no hurry to sign the reform directive - and this time the directive belongs to the ministry alone. There is no treasury to which to shift responsibility, apparently because reducing the tariff by one agora will jeopardize the port companies' revenues.

We could continue to regale you with tales of Mofaz's feats in the transportation ministry. We could, for instance, remind you how the head of the committee appointed to review safety procedures in Israel, Amos Lapidot, resigned a few months ago due to Mofaz's failings as minister. Lapidot's harsh criticism of prevailing flight safety conditions has raised the concern of both the state comptroller and Knesset. And what did the minister and former chief of staff have to say to the Knesset on this matter? "I have tried to enlist five inspectors for a year and a half, but can't get sufficient funding from the treasury."

The treasury, as usual, is at fault, whereas Mofaz, who just happens to be the responsible minister, is to blame for nothing and responsible for nothing.

We could continue to regale you, but we think you get the picture. Mofaz is a minister motivated by political considerations, whose mind changes with the winds, and who regularly refuses to accept responsibility for failures and errors. Mofaz may be an outstanding soldier and a former chief of staff, but as a minister his noticeable quality is fleeing battles and fleeing responsibility.

His success as top soldier and his contribution to the IDF's lack of preparation for the Second Lebanon War debatable, but there is no longer any question about the degree of his success as transportation minister. Mofaz is a failure as transportation minister. You can decide for yourself whether this disqualifies him from candidacy for the prime minister's seat.