How to Destroy the Sinai Gilboas

Attorney Sinai Gilboa, the deputy mayor of Petah Tikva, did not appear in the list of Israel's highest-paid individuals in 2005, or the year before that, or in fact at all.

That's a pity, because according to the State Comptroller's Report published Sunday, Gilboa actually made more than NIS 15 million in the last few years just from advising the Dan bus cooperative on real estate issues.

Dan couldn't have found itself a better adviser than Sinai. The cooperative, which receives hundreds of millions of shekels in subsidies from the state each year wanted to increase its building rights on land it owns in Petah Tikva. But the city was causing problems, and Sinai looked to the chaps from Dan as the ideal answer.

Aside from being a special consultant on property affairs, Sinai was also, as we intimated, the deputy mayor of the city and Petah Tikva's acting chairman of the Planning and Construction Committee, which decides on building rights there. State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss feels that Gilboa was placed in a "grave conflict of interest."

We don't know whether to laugh or cry at that description: We actually think it would be best called one of the ugliest and most dangerous examples of corruption to be found.

The Gilboa business model

Israel is full of Sinai Gilboas - big ones and small ones. Each has his own methods, his own people, his own gambits, but they all have the same business model: they abuse the power they receive as trustees over public property to feather their nests, to grow rich completely disproportionately to their actual skill or contribution to the greater good.

Sinai Gilboas are the country's ugliest people. Billions of shekels flow to and through them year in and year out, but the public rarely sees their true faces. Their names don't appear in the roster of highest-paid employees, and they're probably not going to be liable for that special tax the Justice Ministry is planning for highest-paid workers.

The Justice Ministry's intention to refuse to recognize wage costs over a certain level for tax purposes in order to halt top-level wages from rising out of control is a call to order for all the boards of the companies that manage other people's money.

But don't believe that the tax gambit will solve the problem. The companies and their managers will find ways to bypass it, and it's mainly just a minor symptom of a widespread disease that is the Amazonian river of money flowing from taxpayers and consumers to sweethearts of the government and the most powerful people in corporate Israel.

A few suggestions

Dear Justice and Finance Ministries. Here are a few more effective suggestions for tackling the massive robbery of the public:

b Fire, immediately and forever, any public official, in central or local government, caught in a conflict of interest. If he is also suspected of criminal activity, hand the matter over to a special tribunal for expeditious handling.

b Force all public-sector office holders to file annual reports of their assets. Ministers, Knesset members, government officials, government consultants, officials at local authorities, district committees - all of them, anybody who has any association with public funds. And that must continue three years after they leave their government positions.

b Publish the full actuarial cost of all public-sector pensioners costing more than a million dollars.

b Publish the full financial statements and reveal the salaries of all executives at all private-sector companies and partnerships that do business with the state, just as the financials and salaries at publicly traded companies are made public. We must put a halt to the nonsense of "public company" and "private company" - any company doing business with the state is a public company. If the financial statements of all the contractors building the separation fence without tenders were made public, the wage tigers on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange would turn out to be purring kittens.

b Impose jail time, a lot of it, of decades behind bars, for crimes of corruption, fraud and breach of trust by people who control other people's money, whether they're running public companies (see above) or are just city clerks.

This morning, the thieves in the public and private sector are sitting there giggling as they read about the debate on tax as a deterrent for high pay. The press and lawmakers are wasting their time on this piddling nonsense, they chortle, while we can continue robbing the people blind in much more clever ways.