The postal system worked overtime on Sunday. Everyone sent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu messages, notes and warnings. Everyone. Doctors, the police lobby, the destitute, middle income families, high income families. The content is the same: everyone must participate in filling in the huge hole that exists in the national budget. Everyone, except for my sector, our sector. The burden should only be placed on the neighbor's shoulders.
There is still some debate as to how exactly the task should be carried out. Professor Avi Ben Bassat, former finance ministry director-general, is opposed to tax hikes. In his opinion, tax exemptions for different sectors in society should be cancelled, including export tax benefits. Others say the opposite. The world is experiencing a financial crisis, they say, and many countries will be willing to grant comfortable economic benefits to investors who leave Israeli businesses behind and invest instead in European countries such as Greece and Spain, and other countries throughout the world.
The government is meeting on Monday to approve a draft formulated by Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz detailing tax hikes and afterwards Likud members are scheduled to meet. Netanyahu and Steinitz can wait a day or two more to choose the best way to replenish the coffers. They may even have time to forge a package deal with Histadrut labor federation Chairman Ofer Eini. The method of negotiations is relatively simple. Like in the stock exchange, there are those who proclaim "only buy" or "only sell," we must understand that the negotiators have adopted the method of "only give." The government is finding nothing at the bottom of the piggy bank in return for its expenditures. It is only willing to talk about how much each sector and branch is coughing up.
In a day or two, things will come into focus. Steinitz will be able to declare whether each relevant body is for or against his plan. Based on this principle, the austerity plan should be reviewed and finalized, and no further negotiations should be held. It should be viewed as a holy grail, without the tricks and games in the negotiations that the MKs excel in.
Even if at a certain point it seems worthwhile to make a modification to the proposal, it should be considered an unworthy modification if it holds up the finalization of the draft. Foot-dragging is the downfall of all great programs. We have just been a witness to what foot-dragging has done to the replacement of the Tal Law. We need to make decisions slowly and seriously, and conduct no negotiations afterwards.
The public must also assume that if the government could renege on the budget cuts and make things better for citizens, it would surely do so. In 15 months, parliamentary elections will take place (if they are not moved up) and every government would like to enter the elections after lowering taxes or at least bringing them back to previous levels. The current proposed tax hikes may be difficult on a large portion of society, but their lifespan may be relatively short.
Negotiations with public and business officials and Knesset lobbyists must come before the government decides on the plan. Immediately afterwards, there can be no more wheeling and dealing. Only a vote. That is the only way the Netanyahu-Steinitz plan will have a chance to succeed.