The Bottom Line / Who Really Runs the Country?

1. Ruhama Avraham: To you, that's Knesset member Ruhama Avraham of Kadima, the chairwoman of the Knesset House Committee. Yes, that same Avraham who attracts publicity chiefly by virtue of her photogenic blonde locks, whose most noteworthy achievement in the public domain was her foreign jaunt at the expense of vegetables and fruit exporter Agrexco, while being involved in parliamentary proceedings concerning the company. The police are looking into certain aspects of that trip.

Yes, it's the same Avraham who began her political career as secretary to the then prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. This is the woman who holds the fate of the nation in her hand. Specifically, the fate of the most important law in Israeli government, the Economic Arrangements Bill, lies in her hand, and Avraham is not the woman to miss an opportunity to make her mark on the history of government in Israel.

What she is doing, is spearheading the battle to split up the Economic Arrangements Bill, and remove its most important reforms, which would be separately debated in the appropriate Knesset committees.

Champions of the rule of law have been attacking the Economic Arrangements Bill for years, on the grounds it warps decision-making processes in the Knesset, allowing the treasury to push through structural reforms without any real debate in parliament. They appreciate what Avraham is doing. Any moment now Ruhama Avraham - the one who travels abroad at the expense of a company whose fate she's deciding at the Knesset - will become the darling of the quality in government watchdogs.

Nobody has checked exactly which reforms Avraham is defending bodily by extracting them from the Economic Arrangements Bill.

First is the reform to regulate the management of health maintenance organizations (kupot holim). That is a reform that the Finance, Health and Justice ministries are including in the Economic Arrangements Bill for the fourth time (!) in seven years. They keep having to delete it because of opposition.

All the reform aims to do, is to regulate the management of the HMOs, to make sure the public's interests are protected. It lays down rules for appointing managers to top jobs in the HMOS through tender processes, supervised by a judge and a vetting committee.

All the reform seeks to do, is to assure that NIS 24 billion, which is the health tax collected from Israelis each year, is used efficiently and properly. What could there be in these rules that so rattles the Knesset members?

Nothing. There is nothing in the rules to rattle Knesset members, but there is a lot in them to rattle the doctors, who would no longer be able to rule the HMOs from on high.

2. The doctors. They don't appreciate the state's meddling in their latifundia, and have been lobbying hard to make sure the reform never comes off.

Their lobby is no secret. Nor is it secret that the doctors' lobby is one of the most effective in the land. When you're deadly sick, the help of a top-ranking doctor protecting your interests in the public health system is worth more than gold. Few politicians or ministers would buck the doctors.

That is the main reason why yanking the HMO reform from the Economic Arrangements Bill is not as innocent as one might think. The chance that Knesset members would raise their hands and vote for reform against the doctors' interests is very small. So splitting the reform proposal from the Economic Arrangements Bill is a rather elegant way to kill it, for the greater good of the doctors, and the greater dismay of the public, whose health tax will continue to be used in ways that would shrivel in bright light.

3. Ehud Olmert. Prime Minister Olmert? Running the State of Israel? He can't even manage to manage that ever-blonder Knesset member, Ruhama Avraham. And that is how, three weeks before the deadline to pass the budget, the debate on it hasn't even begun.

One must admit that Olmert had been impressive as industry minister; he left some impression behind as finance minister; but, as finance minister, he evidently prefers to don a blond wig. At least that way, he'll be noticed.