PM Postpones Discussion on Economic Concentration

Nobody's going to be around and Netanyahu is preoccupied with peace talks, budget, surmise sources.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has postponed for a month the meeting scheduled for tomorrow on establishing a state committee to reduce economic concentration in Israel.

Benjamin Netanyahu, AP, July 25, 2010.

Netanyahu has been under heavy pressure to avoid setting up the panel at alll.

The reason for the postponement may be Netanyahu's trip to the summit with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt. Government officials say Netanyahu may prefer to focus on negotiations with the Palestinians and passing the state budget for 2011-2012 in the Knesset, while not opening an additional front on economic concentration.

Another explanation, say government sources, is the slate of trips abroad by many economic officials, all of whom are involved in the matter.

Among those planning trips are Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz and Governor of the Bank of Israel Stanley Fischer, both of whom were invited to the meeting.

Other officials invited include Supervisor of Banks Rony Hizkiyahu, Antitrust Commissioner Ronit Kan, Israel Securities Authority Chairman Zohar Goshen, Deputy Attorney General Avi Licht, National Economic Council head Eugene Kandel and Supervisor of Capital Markets Oded Sarig.

In May, Netanyahu announced at a press conference on Israel's acceptance into the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development that the government would act to reduce economic concentration. "There is too much concentration in the private sector.... We need to reduce the concentration of power in many key sectors of our economy and promote greater competition," he said.

"The more we continue to free up Israel's economy, and the more we continue to remove barriers to competition, the more Israel's economy will thrive and the more the people of Israel will prosper."

The issue of state intervention in economic concentration is controversial, and Steinitz has raised objections to establishing a committee. He has said the Finance Ministry is capable of dealing with the issue without impaneling a special committee.