Hard Look / Just Say No, No, No

The first mission Prime minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu has to handle, as far as businesses are concerned, is to solve the credit crisis. Business sources say the credit crunch (translation into English: bailing out the tycoons) is the problem that most threatens jobs and economic growth in Israel.

Rescuing the tycoons will save jobs, they argue, because their companies employ thousands and are the backbone of the economy.

"If those companies collapse, it will be very unpleasant here," the sources say.

That is arrant nonsense. The logic is absurd.

If the tycoons collapse, it may be unpleasant for them, as well as for a few of their friends and relatives (although even their grandchildren will probably have no real financial worries). But there is no connection whatsoever between their possible collapse and the jobs situation in Israel.

The Super-Sol supermarket chain, for example, is an excellent company whose existence is not dependent on the ability of its parent company, IDB Holding, to repay its debts. Super-Sol does not depend on the survival of board chairman Nochi Dankner.

The same goes for the cellular communications company Cellcom, another IDB outfit.

These two huge, respectable firms will continue to function just fine even if Dankner resigns after six stormy years as head of IDB.

Similarly, nothing would happen to Delek Automotive Systems, which imports Mazda and Ford vehicles, or to Delek Energy, one of the companies exploring the Tamar-1 natural gas drilling site, if Yitzhak Tshuva said goodbye because he could not pay his debts.

Israel Chemicals will continue to stay in business even if ownership passes to an entity other than the Ofer family, and the excellent companies in the Lev Leviev and Eliezer Fishman empires will also soldier on even if their controlling shareholders are mortally wounded.

The tycoons borrowed tens of billions of dollars from the public, and must repay their debts in full and on time.

None of us promised to keep those men riding high forever, and the state budget should certainly not have to participate in such an effort.

It is more important for Netanyahu to take care of the tens of thousands of small businesses, factories and companies and the hundreds of thousands of workers at risk.

The tycoons borrowed vast sums from us and gambled them rashly. Now let them pay the bill.

When one of these giant companies defaults on its debt, shares in that company should pass onto the widows and orphans, pensioners and small investors whose money had been put into the defaulter's bonds. Netanyahu should greet any rescue plan for the tycoons, whoever orchestrates it, with the same answer: No.

No to Zohar Goshen and the Israel Securities Authority's plan.

No to Ram Caspi and his ideas for helping the tycoons.

No to the Bank of Israel and its bailout.

If these tycoons don't have the money to repay their debts, let them hand over shares. Let them sell their mansions and executive jets. And if they refuse, we should sue.