The Bottom Line / 'It's Easy to Be an MK'

"Asked how she could present her candidacy to the Knesset given the disabilities she described, the plaintiff answered that she believes her disabilities suit work as a Knesset member. Insofar as I can understand the defendant, she means that working as a Knesset member is not a continuous job carried out at fixed, rigid hours, but work that involves talk and contact with people."

That is the impression that the Haifa District Court Judge Isaac Amit received from testimony delivered by Esterina Tartman in her case against ILD Insurance and the Avner insurance company. She was suing for compensation after a traffic accident in 1997. The ruling was handed down in 2004.

The distinguished judge, it appears, was deeply impressed by Tartman's credibility. So impressed, that he accepted all her claims, and ruled her compensation of NIS 2.46 million, of which NIS 1.3 million was for loss of future income and pension rights. That was because the accident forced Tartman to quit her job as a manager at Bank Yahav, based on her disabilities because of the accident.

Nothing seemed to shake the judge's faith in Tartman's integrity.

Not the fact that she only quit her job at Yahav four years after the accident. Not the tape that a private investigator made, on behalf of an insurance company, on which Tartman is heard saying that she quit the bank because she wanted to devote herself to mothering her children. Not the fact that Tartman presented medical documents describing problems with memory, attentiveness and concentration, yet she continued to serve as director on several boards.

"Regarding the question about her occupations today, the plaintiff answered that her current occupations as a member of this or that board of directors do suit her condition today. These occupations do not require too much of her," Amit wrote, which may say something about the seriousness with which Tartman views these positions.

Nor was Amit evidently dismayed by the fact that Tartman presented other medical documents showing that she must not work more than four hours a day, though when campaigning for a Knesset seat, she spent day and night touring the country - and that's on top of chairing the women's forum in her party, Yisrael Beiteinu.

The judge accepted that Tartman managed to pull off the campaign by dint of overcoming her physical disabilities.

"Throughout her testimony, the plaintiff asked not to disclose all her disabilities in the courtroom, in order to avoid damage to herself, apparently because she is a prominent member of her party and it could hurt her political career," the judge writes of Tartman, thereby giving her carte blanche to conceal information from the court and public as well.

Nothing at all shook the judge's faith in Tartman's honesty, not even her claim that there is no contradiction between her candidacy for the Knesset and her physical and mental limitations. Working as a Knesset member, the judge quotes her, is not a continuous, rigid job: All it involves is talking and working with people.

In other words, it's a cinch, suitable for the disabled with problems like hers. It's a much easier job than other jobs might be, like working at a bank.

"The plaintiff is energetic and vigorous, and can deliver speeches, as she said in conversations with the investigator," the judge wrote. "However, this activity, or sitting in a board meeting from time to time, cannot be compared with the nature of work at a bank, or similar jobs."

Clearly Tartman convinced the judge of the inconsequentiality of parliamentary work. In case you felt that by her very contempt, the Knesset member disqualifies herself for the job, then you should know that she holds the position of minister in the very same contempt.

"As to the question of whether she tried to find work," Amit wrote, "the plaintiff explained that because of her physical and mental disabilities, she could not apply for the managerial positions that would suit her skills, since because of these disabilities, she left the bank. She relates that she tried, and is trying today, to find work that suits her condition, but hasn't been able to."

Well, the good judge should know that finally, she found a job, a demanding position in management. This week, Esterina Tartman was named Israel's next tourism minister. Her job is to run a NIS 22.5 billion tourism industry.

Given her own testimony that she is not fit to manage, we can only conclude that she believes the office of tourism minister is not a managerial position. It's a cinch.