Two Ministers for the Price of One

A marginal scrap of information from the cabinet table: Environmental Protection Minister Gideon Ezra will henceforth also serve as tourism minister. That is what the cabinet unanimously decided yesterday. Fortunately for us, Israeli ministers have wide and varied talents, sufficient to handle any task. Someone responsible for protecting the environment can also deal with protecting tourists, and vice versa. For him, it's no problem. Only, perhaps, for us.

Ezra is not unusual; like most of his colleagues, he is a polymath. Thus it would be a waste of resources - human and material - for him to serve in only one ministry. Indeed, why shouldn't he contribute his talents to another ministry as well? Granted, there are several ministers in the government who lack portfolios entirely, but the Tourism Ministry alone would not fit their dimensions. The environmental protection minister is, as all agree, only a junior minister. Therefore, Ezra will henceforth do the job of two ministers. Two for the price of one, just like in a sale.

Facts are facts, and cannot be denied: The Environmental Protection Ministry is a small ministry whose budget and powers are modest. And far from expanding, they are constantly decreasing: The environment's needs do not protect them. No one of Ezra's stature would make do with such an out-of-the-way ministry for long; two years are enough. He deserves more - and so do we.

He is not the first minister to have been sent to the Environmental Protection Ministry as if into exile, to a ministerial Siberia. Some of his predecessors also made it clear, whether explicitly or implicitly, that the ministry was too small for them, and they were set on larger and more important ministries. That was their destiny from birth.

Just as if this ministry did not deal with the water we drink, which is in short supply and foul, and the air we breathe, which is polluted and deadly, and the ground we live on and from, which is being destroyed and eroded. But during Ezra's two-year tenure, the situation has of course improved immeasurably, so he is now entitled to turn to other things, in the clear knowledge that the environmental protection minister is not a full-time job. With another half-time ministry, he will apply the same drive and draw masses of tourists here, so that they, too, can breathe Israel's suffocating air and drink our brackish, rapidly declining supply of water.

We do not know whether Ezra himself sought additional employment, or whether the prime minister asked him to take the Tourism Ministry. After all, the premier has recently not gotten much pleasure from Jewish tourists who come here for the holidays. But either way, both of them ought to remember, and to constantly remind themselves, that there are no small ministries - only small ministers.