The Friends of Thieves

Anyone who wants to sever the triple thread - wealth, government and corruption - must dry up the well of dirty laundry in which politicians and tycoons swim.

You can be right but not smart, or smart and not right. Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz has not considered the third option - both wrong and stupid.

He was even quoted this week as saying that "large companies are threatening to leave the country if the law capping top executives' salaries passes." False. Why leave when it pays to stay? As far as its master America is concerned, Israel is overseas. And there's no need to be impressed by a tycoon's tears.

In Israel they have the best of both worlds: Life in the East and a living standard of the distant West - the upper thousandth percentile. And any connection to the realities of life is a connected person's connections.

They have no reason to leave and nowhere to go. A managerial bargain like Eli Yones, the CEO of Bank Mizrahi-Tefahot, holds our salary record - NIS 1.5 million per month. The likes of him can be found in other places, where it costs them less. It's not worthwhile for a wealthy Israeli to try his luck abroad and give up hothouse conditions. London isn't waiting for him either, and he's liable to find himself on a straw mat in the City playing a flute to snakes like an Indian fakir.

Overseas is here, and much more. Recently the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development published data about salary gaps in our country. Once again it turns out that no gaps are as great as Israel's, and the inequality index here is the most despicable and disgraceful of them all - we have no rivals. So why should the Steinitzes and the plutocrats complain? It's good to live in this country, it's pleasant for the small-fry sharks to splash around in our water.

Ever since some copywriter scribbled the road safety slogan: "Don't be right, be smart," the foolish insight that justice and wisdom are opposites has become entrenched here. We recommend trying to use them in the correct proportions to discover that distributive justice is a useful principle. Countries that are satisfied with fivefold gaps are far more successful than Israel with its 50-fold gaps. Research proves that the more egalitarian a country, the more achievement-oriented and progressive it is. The less egalitarian, the more backward, ignorant and corrupt.

Israel is committed to a particularly large amount of egalitarianism and solidarity. Not only does it educate, it also has a military draft. Not for long will young people agree to spill their blood for the country, in which the bloodsuckers are multiplying. It simply can't go on like this.

This week a ministerial committee was formed, and I'll already take a gamble: If in two months the government agrees to limit top executives' salaries by law or in any other effective manner, I hereby promise to read the collected writings of billionaire businesswoman Shari Arison, beginning with the philosophical chapters.

But there's no chance: Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert, Benjamin Netanyahu and Yuval Steinitz, Ehud Barak and Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, Avigdor Lieberman and Eli Yishai have not done anything to cap the salaries of good and helpful friends and will not. On the contrary, they will remove any restrictions. What doesn't one do for donors? Everything one doesn't do for his country.

Anyone who wants to sever the triple thread - wealth, government and corruption - must dry up the well of dirty laundry in which politicians and tycoons swim. We have already discovered who your friends are, we know who you are.

Not all of them are outlaws, lovers of bribery and pursuers of payoffs. But many - too many - are friends of thieves.