Viewpoint / Say No to Eli Landau

Intrusive questions from the press are not the worst thing Joseph Paritzky has to face. The fired minister's bigger problem now is intrusive questions from the police. For instance, why did he hasten to the aid of the Israel Electric Corporation and its workers in their fight against a legislative proposal to dismantle the company and reform the power industry? The possibility that Paritzky acted to emasculate the reform because he was being extorted by people at the IEC is highly worrisome.

One particularly worrisome aspect of the affair involves the IEC itself. Nobody has been fired or required to reach conclusions over the scandal of the tape on which Paritzky is heard urging a detective hired by IEC's workers' committee to frame his Shinui party colleague, Avraham Poraz. In fact, the IEC is behaving as though it had no connection to the whole affair. But its workers' committee is very dominant in the company's management; the company pays for the workers' committee's activities; and that committee is the one that paid for the investigator. That makes management an abettor of the whole affair.

Also, Paritzky caved in on the reform in a meeting with representatives of management and the workers' committee. Worrisome stuff indeed.

Granted, Paritzky is also guilty, but he has already paid a high personal price in the form of public humiliation and being fired. If the IEC shares the guilt, it should also share the price - but nobody is there to assure that it does, and to make sure that things like this do not happen again.

Ten years ago, there was an uproar when the IEC hastened to buy land from Rogosin, then run by Ezra Harel (since deceased), for an enormously expensive price. It paid tens of millions of dollars and never did make any use of the land. Who thinks of that scandal now? The company seems to have concluded that scandals come and go, and there is no reason to get upset.

The company's relations with the government have always involved a combination of politics, contacts and clout. The fact that the departing chairman, Eli Landau, is a Likud member and a personal friend of the prime minister, Ariel Sharon, attests to that. If not for his sweetheart contacts, there is no doubt that Landau would not have been tapped to lead the IEC, a position that actually requires relevant skills.

In the fever of flinging mud at Paritzky, people are forgetting the claims he has made regarding the reasons for his fatal collision with the company. Paritzky opposed the IEC's deal to buy $2.5 billion worth of gas from EMG, in which Yossi Maiman's Merhav company is a partner together with a consortium of Egyptians. Additionally, Paritzky felt that after two terms on the job, it was time for Landau to move on. The IEC needed a new chairman, Paritzky ruled.

He was right, too. Two terms were more than enough, especially for a job that was filled by a political appointee, not a practical one. Landau supplied no reason why he deserved a third term in office.

Under Landau's reign, the IEC behaved like a company that cannot learn its lessons and mend its ways. That indicates that he contributed little to improving the electricity sector's good name.

Landau, in fact, was famous for protecting the company's interests at any price, including by placing its interests above the common good. Since the electricity sector must be reformed, the company must be dismantled and competition must be introduced, there is no question about it: Landau is not the right man to lead the company through the changes.

Neither Landau nor the rest of IEC's management come out of the Paritzky affair smelling good. Even if none of them actually broke any laws, from the public perspective, the behavior of the company and its workers' committee was substandard. There is no reason to reward Landau for that with a third term.