Taking Stock / Dalia and Fuad Go to School

Come meet the new superstars. Leaders sporting young, fresh faces, hungry, innovative, determined to make their mark, and finally, they have the opportunity to do it.

Well, okay, they aren't that young or fresh-faced, though maybe they have an appetite, heaven knows for what. Grit, okay, maybe, but not clear to what they're devoting their resolve.

Actually, don't they look familiar? Oh, yes, it's Dalia and Fuad, they sat in some government or other. Odd that they seem to always be around.

It isn't final; right now it's just a queasy feeling in the tummy. We hope it's nothing, but our trepidation is growing by the day.

Dalia Itzik and Binyamin "Fuad" Ben-Eliezer have barely managed to warm their new ministerial seats at Communications and National Infrastructure, respectively, but we suspect they'll soon merit the unsavory reputation that most of the "economic" ministers wind up sporting.

Starting from scratch

One of the worst problems with frequent changes of ministers is that every single one declares, upon taking the reins, that he or she has to "study" each and every reform or step being planned under his purview. Ergo, the bureaucrats are a bunch of pencil-pushing nobodies, former policy is of zero interest, all the thought devoted to the subject beforehand is twaddle. Now I Am Here and that means, we start from scratch.

Any reform I Did Not Invent is worthless, any step taken by officials Not Associated With Me is wrong. Any action by Anybody Not Eating From My Hand is suspect and requires thorough investigation, following a leak to the press, of course.

Dalia Itzik as the brand-new communications minister doesn't even need to comment on the decade-long efforts to abolish the Communications Ministry and replace it with an apolitical board. Why? Because her predecessor upon entering the post declared that he had to "study the issue" and buried it.

Now Itzik is "studying" digital radio and demanding it be extracted from the Economic Arrangements Law, ergo, she is ensuring it won't happen this year. She is "studying" the topic of migrating cellular numbers, which means a year or more delay, and abolishes the chances of increasing competition between the cellular carriers this year.

She is also "learning" about extending Channel 10's license, to the glee of rival Channel 2, which can dust off its dreams of restoring its monopolistic status.

No sucker Fuad

While Itzik leaves us some faint hope of improvement down the line, when it comes to Fuad, there's no need to study or learn. The minister is nimble and agile-minded, at least when it comes to economic matters, it would seem: the moment he took the National Infrastructure portfolio, he declared he was freezing the split of Oil Refineries, a structural reform that the Finance Ministry has been straining to promote for years.

"I do not mean to become a rubber stamp for the ministerial privatization committee," Fuad declared, adding that he would examine all the issues at stake.

But, Fuad, the issues at stake have been debated ad nauseum for 10 years or more by panels of experts at the Finance Ministry and the National Infrastructure Ministry, too. Why do we need your take on it, too?

You know why, dear reader. Because 1,000 people work at Oil Refineries, many of whom belong to the Labor Party. You think he's stupid? That he'd miss an opportunity like that? Moreover, what he says at the Oil Refineries will echo throughout the monopolies in Israel at which the Labor Party faithful are heavily represented.

The other day Fuad reverted to type with respect to another flabby government monopoly that the treasury is dying to reform. What did Fuad do? Give the usual goods, of course: "I'm nobody's rubber stamp. I will do what's good for Israel's economy and for the State of Israel. I support competition, but first and foremost I'm for the workers."

"The workers"? What workers is he talking about? The two million workers who pay tax? The hundreds of thousands eking out a living on minimum wage? The workers who actually pay their power and water bills?

Don't be silly. When old Laborites like Fuad say "workers", they mean people earning double, triple or quintuple the average wage, the workers at the government monopolies who are tightly tied to the power centers at the parties. When old Laborites like Fuad say they are for the workers, they mean against the consumers, the taxpayers, the concept of competition.

But he's a friend

Is your heart quivering with pity for Fuad and his fellow ministers for taking such a drubbing here even before they've had 100 days of grace in their new jobs?

Rest easy. They couldn't care less what you and the rest of the newspaper readers think. What they care about is giving jobs to the boys and groveling before the powers in the parties. If anything, this article gives them points among the hundreds of party hacks who want cushy jobs.

Hundreds of spluttering articles have been penned in the last two weeks against the ministers who voted in favor of the "jobs" bill passed last week. The articles did not so much as rattle their bliss as hundreds of phone calls poured in from joyous party hacks who'd gotten theirs.

Likud or Labor, right or left, disengagers or settlers - at the end of the day, they all bow to one king and one king alone: the personal interests of their fellows at the party central committees, who elect them in the party primaries.