The Bottom Line / Million-shekel Baby

Somehow, amid the flurry of all the news and action in Israel and overseas, the story of the million shekels that the prime minister's wife is to receive just sort of disappeared.

A public commission headed by Yoram Gabai decided to give Aliza Olmert quite generous conditions, since why should it cause trouble? Then the Knesset Finance Committee members all raised their hands in unison too - in favor, of course. Why shouldn't they? After all, they don't have to pay for it.

Until now there had been no law concerning the Israeli first lady. There were only "customs." For example, she gets to use a government car once in a while, when she requests it. She also receives services from the Prime Minister's Bureau - which, as we all know, does not lack for cars or secretaries.

The Gabai committee not only formally set these customs on paper - it also improved them somewhat.

The improvements will cost the Israeli taxpayer quite a lot of money, which of course has to come from somewhere else. Because from now on Aliza Olmert will be entitled to her own car.

She will need a dedicated driver also. Of course she will need a security detail at all times. She will receive secretarial services and two assistants, too - all of which means more unnecessary budget expenses.

Oh, and why two assistants? Isn't one good enough?

In addition, the Olmerts will receive a very nice clothes budget: NIS 45,000 a year. Up till now, prime ministers bought their clothes just like regular folk, at their own expense.

Now the royal couple will have all their housing, household and living expenses - including furniture, gifts and travel - covered by the public purse.

In that case, why does the prime minister even need a salary?

After all, all his expenses are covered by the state. He can give his bank a standing order to put his entire salary into savings, to be retrieved the day he leaves office.

However, the Prime Minister's Office was not satisfied with just a million shekels in expenses. It has demanded more, that Aliza Olmert be granted a special legal status: "The wife of the Prime Minister." In this capacity she could travel around the world as she sees fit, and bestow gifts as she pleases - all at the taxpayers' expense. But luckily, the committee did not agree to that extreme.

In the vast majority of democracies, the prime minister's wife is not provided with a car, or any of the other, more modest benefits. But how can such countries be compared to rich and mighty Israel?

A similar move is being formulated within the Knesset Finance Committee to grant the same conditions and perks to Gila Katsav, the president's wife, and to the wives of the two chief rabbis.

I propose that the list be expanded to include the wife of Finance Committee chair Yaakov Litzman. Why not? Doesn't such a generous benefactor deserve something too - even if it comes out of our money?

The plague of darknessGal Mechtinger, 23, from Talmei Yosef, was killed one night last week in a shocking accident on the Trans-Israel Highway.

Mechtinger lost control of his car and ran into the guardrail. When he recovered slightly, he got out of the vehicle to call for help, and was hit by another automobile.

The occupants of the second car testified that they never saw him, since the road was completely dark.

That is the situation on Road 6, the toll road, which was built with no lighting whatsoever - and therefore does not meet international standards.

It is amazing the Transportation Ministry did not require the toll road franchisee to install lights.

But what can you expect from transportation ministers who still have not required lighting on the busy Road 2 from Netanya to Haifa?