Uri Yogev to Chair Future Economic Advisory Committee

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday appointed his top economic adviser, businessman Uri Yogev, as chairman of the panel that advises the National Economic Council.

Yogev has already signed an agreement to eschew advice on matters related to his business career, and the agreement has been approved by Shulamit Barnea-Fargo, legal counsel to the Prime Minister's Office.

Even though the cabinet empowered Netanyahu to appoint a chairman for the advisory committee two weeks ago, the committee itself does not yet exist: It still has no members. Moreover, the chairman of the National Economic Council, Manuel Trajtenberg, recently announced his resignation, and it is not clear who will replace him, if anybody.

Yogev headed the Finance Ministry's budgets department from 2002 to 2004. He was appointed by then finance minister Silvan Shalom, but stayed on after Netanyahu replaced Shalom as finance supremo. In recent months, he has become Netanyahu's confidant on economic issues.

Yogev was Netanyahu's envoy in the latest talks with union officials and was behind the agreement reportedly reached yesterday with Histadrut labor federation leader Ofer Eini. However, the main points of the agreement Yogev struck with Eini left treasury officials thunderstruck.

"In general, the things that Eini and Yogev agreed on can't be paid for," one treasury official said. "These things are crazy."

That Netanyahu's choice of Yogev to talk with the Histadrut did not go down well in treasury circles was also evident in other ways: The treasury reportedly declined to either allocate a room for the negotiations or provide the requisite data. (Moti Bassok)