The Bottom Line / Her Majesty the Minister

If you conducted an archaeological dig at the Postal Authority you would discover layer upon layer of political appointments dating back to Isaiah the Prophet and the Israelite period. Neither have communications ministers held back from dipping into the plate. Former minister Limor Livnat appointed close associates from the Likud Central Committee to the authority, while Benjamin Ben-Eliezer appointed several Labor party hacks to the office as well. Sharp State Comptroller criticism didn't seem to phase Fuad.

A change happened three years ago, when Yossi Sheli was appointed Postal Authority chairman. True, he made it there through his political connections with Uri Shani, that is to say Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's office. However, he did not play according to the accepted rules. Sheli did not agree to the postal service continuing to serve as a labor exchange for ministers, and refused to make political appointments. Against this background, Sheli got into fights with MKs Reuven Rivlin and Ehud Olmert when they served as communications ministers.

The story has become only more complex with the arrival of Communications Minister Dalia Itzik. She wants both to make political appointments and halt the process of transforming the Postal Authority into a government company, forgetting about the privatization plan looming in the background. Therefore, she wants to force out Sheli as quickly as possible to appoint one of her own, someone she knows will deliver the goods.

Itzik has bothered to meet with Sheli only once during her first three months on the job, and that wasn't, God forbid, to hold a working meeting but rather to tell him to go home. Yet, Sheli did not cave in. Later, the ministry leaked a rumor to the press of a critical report against Sheli. It was a dirty scheme meant to destroy the man publicly and force him to flee his position. No one has yet to see the report, and no one knows how such a report of the postal authority reaches the minister, even though first it needs to be submitted to the director general.

Sheli has injected a new spirit into the Postal Authority over the past three years. He is a diligent and impartial director general, who has managed to eliminate several sacred cows. He does not fear to enact organizational changes in a Byzantine bureaucracy. He has fired 340 employees at all levels, including 20 at the senior level. A significant number of this group were previous political appointments, which explains why so many Likud Central Committee members are angry at him. And he has results to show for his efforts. The efficiency process cut the authority's account deficit from NIS 200 million to NIS 80 million in one year. Yet, none of this interests Itzik.

Postal employees also want the process to end already. They want to sign their pension agreement, to receive a salary bonus, and shift to government company status. They understand that without the necessary changes, the postal service won't be able to compete, and its fate will be losses and atrophy against private companies entering the market. They fear that if the process gets stuck, they won't be paid on time.

However, Dalia Itzik has her own agenda. She wants an easy director general, the kind who knows which side his bread is buttered. She wants the kind who won't argue; a yes man to do what she says, to agree with her political appointments, to oppose privatization - and who will bow down every morning and give thanks to her majesty the minister.