Economics editor requests pardon from ICSEP

Memos
16 Oct ’04

On the eve of Yom Kippur this year, Sever Plotzker, chief economic and social editor of the very influential Yediot Achronot, requested a pardon from seven parties whom he thought “were not given the credit they deserved” and “to whom the Israeli economy owes quite a bit.” Among them was ICSEP.

This is surprising because during the preceding weeks we had argued bitterly with our friend Sever, who took it upon himself to defend the banks in what we considered an unethical manner.

Following is Sever’s text and some comments by readers.

A pardon from Daniel Doron

Daniel Doron is not exactly a household word in Israel. Doron is a senior (freelance) commentator on Israeli affairs for The Wall Street Journal, but he still has to beg the Israeli media for a worthy platform. A not-so-young person who with his own two hands established The Israel Center for Social and Economic Progress that flourished during the eighties and has remained the work of this one singular man, the saying “there is no prophet in his own town” fits exactly Doron’s voice, and for this we must request his pardon.

For Daniel Doron is, and always has been, the true fighter for a free market economy. A real free market, not only from government intervention, which Doron contemptuously rejects, but also free from the excessive power of our monopolies, cartels, restrainers of trade and the banks. Oh, yes, the damned banks: there does not exist an economist who is capable of hating our huge banks more than Daniel Doron. For a generation he has been calling for breaking up their monopoly power, for their exposure to true competition. He has repeatedly warned about a situation in which the “invisible hand” of free financial markets has been replaced by the arbitrary decisions of a small group of bankers possessing enormous concentrated power.

Doron’s sayings and writing were not absorbed easily into the consciousness of our economic statesmen. They were considered too radical, too difficult to label. None of our media social preachers has embraced him as his guru. But he has followers and students who are absorbing his teachings. He has had influence in his own way. Our Finance Minister Netanyahu often sounds like he is quoting Daniel Doron, and so do Knesset members and our media pundits. They do it, however, without attribution, and without giving due credit, as is customary in our country.

Some published comments

Daniel Doron is not alone

What you wrote about Daniel Doron is forthright and true, and it is high time that it be said. I wish to add but one correction: Daniel Doron, who directs The Israel Center for Social and Economic Progress, is at the head of an educational think tank that is buzzing with life and involved in many activities. Quite a number of younger people enjoy working with him, because they share the Center’s objectives to promote a healthy society based on a free competitive market, the most solid basis for the growth and the success of the Zionist ideal.

Ronen Poliak, Faculty of Law, Hebrew University

The Israel Center is not a one-man operation

True, Daniel Doron is ICSEP’s founder and director. But ICSEP is not a one-man operation, as Sever implies. He should have checked the facts. The Center serves as an umbrella for the many activists who are pushing for the development of free markets in Israel. They do it mostly voluntarily out of deep concern for the economic fate of Israel. They include businessmen, academicians and students, many from the faculties of law who are working on position papers and legal advocacy.

Avi Nov Esq., Hebrew U.

Doron and ICSEP

History teaches that new ideas take time to penetrate. Daniel’s ideas – like the ideas of those who believed, historically, in the justice of their cause – have proven themselves as worthy of application. His good intentions and the manner in which he chose to apply them, should serve as a model of successful and worthy social action. I am sorry I got to know him only a year ago. His immense experience, his knowledge and insights guide us all. Politicians would do well to consult with him before they act. He deserves the greatest possible recognition and appreciation. His greatness is not only in his understanding of the Israeli economy and the world economy, but in his ability to establish several task forces that are doing very professional and efficient work.

Yossie Zweita, Hebrew U.

A response to a defender of the banks

Had we a few more Daniels, Israel would have flourished like never before, for the 300,000 unemployed, the 500,000 children under the poverty line and the low salary of $1200 a month would vanish, replaced by a competitive economy with no water, electricity, communications and banking monopolies…”

Yoram Moshowitz, Jerusalem

Sever, even though this is a day of atonement I find it difficult to forgive

Your serial attacks against the Bachar Commission recommendations (for reform in financial markets) was unsettling because you are the economic editor of the country’s strongest paper.

Your requesting pardon from and thanking a most decent and honest person – a true Zionist – like Daniel Doron is proper. “Proper” is not even the word, for he deserves much more. But this request for pardon is not enough to atone for your recent articles (attacking the reform).

Yotam

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ICSEP has circulated the following letter together with a PowerPoint presentation: “A Competitive Capital Market – A Growth Engine for the Israeli Economy”.

Dear friends,

Enclosed is a draft document on the reform of financial markets in Israel. We hope it explains why such a reform is so vital for Israel’s viability, and why Israel needs a strong economy to meet the extraordinary threats and challenges facing it.