The Real Agenda


Avigdor Lieberman is joining the government. Or maybe he isn't.

Amir Peretz will accept his coalition membership. Or maybe he won't. Peretz has run out of steam. Or maybe the former labor leader-cum-Labor chairman will stage a comeback.

Arcadi Gaydamak is teaming up with Lieberman. Or maybe it's all spin to shore up the billionaire's legitimacy.

Bibi means to storm the premiership. Or maybe he'll enter the coalition if Peretz leaves it after Lieberman joins.

These are just a few of the scenarios the media has been touting. From time to time, there's talk of an inquiry into the second Lebanon war, but even that is confined mostly to the political ramifications, and the issue of the war itself is fading.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was first to grasp that for the foreseeable future, he will be entirely preoccupied with his own survival, and that all his plans (if he had any) have been rendered irrelevant. So he jumped the gun and said it aloud: The government does not need an agenda.

And media consumers do indeed feel that the government has no agenda. The entire political echelon is engaged in survival - or upgrades. The coalition is entirely occupied with ways to stay in power, and the opposition is entirely occupied with ways to wrest that power away from the coalition.

Big spin

But that's the biggest spin of them all. It's an open secret to the tens of thousands of people with ties to the powers that be that there is always an agenda - a crystal-clear one, with plans of action, strategies, tactics and goals.

In a country in which the public sector controls 50 percent of GDP; in which most of the public sector appointments depend on who you know and not what you can do; in which nepotism rules; in which much of the wealth is being accrued by well-connected people selling goods and services to the wider government; in a country like that, the agenda of the coalition and Knesset members is horrifyingly simple: It is to survive, to cling to the pork barrels, to sink one's teeth into the public teat and hang on for dear life.

The regular Joe - or Yossi - who gets up in the morning, drinks coffee and trudges off to work or to reserve duty in the army, who opens the morning paper and reads about the scenarios for change in government, may think it's about ideology or security, if he's naive. If he's rather less gullible, he'll think it's about politics.

He is wrong. It's about money.

Then there's the savvy citizen, who opens the paper and reads between the lines. He reads the real story. Each gesture or twitch by a politician or clerk or general has tremendous economic significance.

Each politician or clerk or general has the power to move hundreds of directors, high-level managers and functionaries, each of which has the power to move thousands of lower-level employees throughout the public sector and sometimes the private one too.

Each political twitch opens and closes opportunities for thousands of jobs in Israel, and beyond it too.

Yossi frets

The ordinary Yossi turns on his TV and watches the minister, Knesset member, ministry director general or army officer pontificate on matters of state. Concerned and frightened, Yossi frets over the territories, war, Iranian nukes, economic policy, the future of his children.

The savvy citizen knows the texts are empty marketing babble that fill the time between items that don't photograph that well, as the minister or general or bureaucrat leaves the studio, wiping the makeup off his cheeks, and resumes his usual occupation of jobs for the boys, coalitions, tenders, political allies and enemies, family and friends, scratching backs and presenting his own.

Yossi leaves the house and goes to work on his scooter. Left and right, he's passed by cars that cost hundreds of thousands of shekels. He wonders: How can they afford it? What are they, hi-tech millionaires?

But the savvy citizen knows that the people in those fancy cars passing him left and right are the connected ones. The millionaire pensioners, the people who won the tenders, the fixers and machers, the cousins and daughters of.

Yossi hates the politicians, scorns the ministers and can't stand the paper-pushers. They're all a bunch of freeloaders who understand nothing, change the mind with the weather and have no agenda, he thinks.

But the connected citizen knows who the real fool in this story is. He pays his taxes and votes for these people every four years, and gets up each morning to go to work.

They aren't the fools here, and they do have an agenda - oh, they do. It's to stay right where they are, living off Yossi and hoping that he'll continue to think they're the fools.