Ze'ev Feldman Quits Race to Head Tax Authority

After reviewing the headlines of newspaper business sections and discussing the matter with friends and family, the leading candidate to head of the Tax Authority Ze'ev Feldman told treasury director general Yoram Ariav yesterday afternoon he is withdrawing his candidacy. "I've now learned my lesson, and I will never accept a proposal to join the civil sector," Feldman told TheMarker.

With the announcement, Feldman put an end to the wave of objections to his appointment by various parties in the civil service, from the Tax Authority to the Justice Ministry. The objections arose from two main issues. The first is the fact that his name has been mentioned as having represented clients who received tax relief granted by senior tax official Shuky Vita, who is suspected of reducing tax liability without having the authority to do so. The second relates to the fact that since his retirement from the Tax Authority in the mid 1990s, Feldman has advised and worked in the service of a number of the largest business organizations in the economy - and continues to work for them to this day.

Tax Authority sources say his acceptance of the position would require a complicated arrangement meant to prevent any conflict of interest which would, practically speaking, block him from handling ongoing business in the Tax Authority for an extended period.

Feldman points out it was not he who sought the position, but was approached by a team headed by treasury director general Yoram Ariav. "They spoke to me about the civic mission and the duty of good people who wish to influence life in this country, but recent days have taught me there are those who don't want to see me in the position, who are willing to go far to prevent an appointment which is entirely out of good will" he said.

"I was ready for attack from the moment my name was mentioned, but I didn't imagine it would be so forceful. There is a limit to what a person can stand to accept a public position, no matter how senior. I imagine that had I agreed and been eventually appointed, the attacks would only have increased to the point where I could not have done my job, and done nothing but respond to attacks."

Feldman is especially angry over the publicity that provoked Attorney General Menachem Mazuz to opine on his appointment and ask that Feldman's appointment be postponed for a cabinet vote. A spokesman for the Justice Ministry said yesterday that in contrast to the story that appeared in Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper, the attorney general had not been approached by anyone in the treasury. "The person who leaked this item did me a great service," Feldman said. "The publicity brought me face-to-face with the ugly reality that anything will be done to prevent good people from coming in to save the civil service.

Feldman says he intends to continue with his current business as though nothing has happened. "Even before I made the decision, my daughter told me that we should celebrate, no matter what. She said if I was appointed for the position, we would go celebrate at a restaurant, and if not, we would celebrate at an even better restaurant," he said. "Everyone I consulted with before agreeing to become a candidate, and in the last few days, advised me not to take the job. I made my decision against their judgment, but I'm back to the consensus. It looks like the I, who has experience with this sort of thing, was mistaken all along, and the people around me were right."