Netanyahu Is Scared of Shelly Yachimovich

Establishing a special ministerial committee to set a government policy on salary caps for senior executives was simply Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's way of burying the matter. He set up the committee in order to prevent MKs Shelly Yachimovich (Labor) and Haim Katz (Likud) from dictating limits on executive pay through legislation.

Netanyahu simply is scared that Yachimovich and Katz would prove that the emperor has no clothes - that the prime minister and his cabinet are not actually interested in blocking excessive pay, it's only the MKs who are interested in addressing the matter.

Yesterday morning it became clear that there was a majority of at least nine ministers in favor of Katz and Yachimovich's private member bill, and it would most likely pass a vote in the Ministerial Committee on Legislation.

Instead, Netanyahu's new committee has only one member in favor of salary caps, Social Affairs Minister Isaac Herzog (Labor), with Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer (Labor) possibly joining him on a few of the issues.

At least two ministers object to the proposal - Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz (Likud) and Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman. Neeman is yet to state his position, but his proposal to snatch the initiative away from the MKs can only be explained by his objection to their bill.

Ben-Eliezer has yet to take an official stance, but his ministry's legal advisor yesterday warned that the proposal should not be applied to privately held companies whose stock is not traded publicly on the stock exchange.

Four politicians and one professional

Establishing a committee certainly distorts Yachimovich and Katz's original intentions, and it is likely that the committee's final recommendations will be much milder than their original proposal.

The special ministerial committee, which includes four politicians and one professional, is a political committee whose members will be exposed to heavy pressure from tycoons, senior executives and their lobbyists.

There is no doubt whatsoever that over the next few months, the ministers will be set upon at social events, conferences and business meetings. It is easier for interested parties to pressure four ministers than the 120 Knesset members who would be voting on a bill, once it receives the approval of the Ministerial Committee on Legislation.

If the new committee does not make its recommendations by the end of June as scheduled, the legislation will be postponed until the Knesset's winter session, as the legislature goes on summer recess at the end of July.

When the MKs return from their vacation, they will be busy with the two-year budget, and the proposal to limit executive salaries most likely will just melt away.