Taking Stock / Top-secret Shwarma

l "I would have repeated the Elisra deal today, for the same amount," says former chief financial officer of Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI), Avi Knobel, who spearheaded the company's dubious investment in Elisra, and who has no regrets. His tactics, it appears, are confined to attack.

At first glance, Knobel's statement looks ridiculous. IAI bought its 30 percent stake in Elisra three years ago at a company value of $330 million. Elisra's recent takeover by Elbit Systems priced it at $100 million. Would Knobel really be prepared to knowingly buy the company for three times its market value?

At second glance, one understands where his mind is at. It is not his own money, after all; it's taxpayer money, and what's $100 million here or there to Knobel and his ex-boss Moshe Keret? After all, these are men - who faithfully are keeping to the tenets of IAI and the military establishment in general - have tossed about billions and billions of shekels without any accountability whatsoever.

l Taxpayers may not like reading the State Comptroller's Report about how IAI management tossed their hard-earned money into the toilet. But they can take comfort in the fact that the Israeli army will be constructing new corps headquarters for its ground and logistics forces.

Where will these be built? In development areas? In industrial centers? In remote areas outside the crowded, high-cost center? Surely it must be: Our defense minister has proved to have a social conscience, and the IDF is a socially aware institution, too; surely they wouldn't needlessly squander billions on buying prime real estate.

Maariv reported this week that the first edifice, for the grounds forces, will be moved from Kastina to the Kirya compound in the heart of Tel Aviv. The second one will be at the Tel Hashomer army camp.

Did the army chiefs fail to notice that both are prime real estate, prime as it gets? In fact, some of the most expensive land in the country? Of course they noticed. But a top-secret army rule states: "No corps headquarters in which high-ranking career officers serve shall be located more than 500 meters from a Holmes Place outlet, a high-quality shwarma stand, a cinema chain, the Ayalon Highway, and at least three Japanese sushi restaurants."

Army sources have reassured the concerned citizenry: the air force HQ and the Defense Ministry at the Kirya cost only $130 million, while the new buildings will only cost "a few tens of millions of dollars".

l Page 39 of Israel Discount Bank's third-quarter financial statement revealed a little item about its New York branch: that the federal American authorities are investigating it for money-laundering. The bank chiefs didn't believe there was a need to expand on the subject, or make an announcement to the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange until the end of last week, after having reached a settlement with the Americans.

Indeed, when full disclosure was made Saturday, it turned out that the whole story was about peanuts. A little matter of $2.2 billion

An astonishing sum, to be sure, but the story in general should come as no surprise. It's just another episode in the saga of Israeli banking in trouble. While the rest of the banking world has been taking extra care not to fall afoul of money-laundering laws, Israel's banks continued on their merry way, sucking in stinking money from the rest of the world.

l Diamond merchant Oded Dassau, who recently took over the shell company Golan Computers, announced Sunday that he's closed a deal for the purchase of 50 percent of the Dan bus cooperative for the small sum of $75 million. Golan's financial statements show that the company has $2 million. Where will it get $73 million? From the banks and working capital, Golan says.

Either there's some multi-millionaire on the market that we had not heard of, or the banks are again handing out loans to all comers, just like in the last boom.

l There's a new fashion on the capital market: munis. Bond offerings by cities. Ramle raised NIS 200 million, and this week Ra'anana announced a NIS 200 million bond placement of its own.

Mayors are thrilled about the new investment vehicle, and talk a lot about competition lowering their financing costs. The problem is that most cities in Israel aren't Ra'anana. Most of them feature pitiful financial management, as is the case with the supervisory mechanisms of the Finance and Interior Ministries. Without addressing the fundamental ills of local government, long-term bond issues are just a way for mayors to make merry today, and leave the task of raising city taxes for some mayor down the line.