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Publisher\Editor Don Canaan

                       Aug. 28, 1996 V4, #159
All the News the Big Guys Missed

Levy: Israel Should Not Panic Over Syrian Army Movement

Syrian army vehicles, including tanks, have been moved from permanent posts in the Matan mountains northeast of Beirut to the Beirut-Damascus road, Israel Radio reports.

Sources in Beirut said the Syrian army is stationing forces along the road in defensive positions. The move is said to be a reaction to fears of an Israeli air attack.

In response, Foreign Minister David Levy said Israel should not panic and emphasized that the government is monitoring developments in Lebanon. Levy also said Israel is still awaiting a Syrian response to communiques recently forwarded to Damascus.

The Privatization of Israel

By Patricia Golan (VOA-Jerusalem)

Immediately after his election last May, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared his commitment to massive and rapid privatization of state-owned companies. He pledged open capital markets, lower taxes and deregulation but, privatization, like budget cuts, is easier said than done.

As Netanyahu gave his election victory speech to cheering supporters in June, he pledged to introduce an open economy to Israel, and sweep away the last vestiges of what he calls a socialist-style centrally controlled economy.

The American-educated Netanyahu did not introduce the notion of privatization to Israel. Previous governments, understanding that the country had outgrown its need for centralization had already begun selling off government-owned companies.

But sales were slow, and controversial, either because the companies were sold cheaply, or because they were closely identified with the country's few natural resources -- for example, the Dead Sea Works potash plant.

Economic consultant Esther Alexander finds sales of such companies to speculators a disturbing trend. "Israeli people worked hard to build these companies. It takes years and fears to build and build before it became profitable, no private investor would do it, but government did. We did and we worked and we succeeded, now when it is big and fine they just throw it away, without any compensation."

More than 100 of Israel's state-owned companies are said to be for sale. A few are highly sensitive, such as high tech military enterprises. Opposition Labor Party member of parliament Shlomo ben-Ami says the prospect of such companies being privatized is alarming.

"Can a society, can a country like Israel, privatize its major asset, which is knowledge, technological know-how, this is the most fundamental edge that we have on the Arab world, can we privatize this?"

Ben-Ami points out that privatization means moving from the benefit of the state to the benefit of a small group of shareholders. Government-ownership, he says, protects the public interest.

Netanyahu's critics charge he is killing off Israel's welfare state. His government has already made cuts in social services. But government spokesman Moshe Fogel insists that privatization does not mean abandoning the underprivileged.

Fearing the inevitable downsizing that follows privatization, Israel's trade union federation, the Histadrut, has already staged a series of nation-wide work stoppages. Trade union department head Ephraim Jiloni says Netanyahu had better head the warning.

"We can force them to sit with us and to talk about the problem. I don't want to sound like a gangster, but we can close the airport, the...port, we can close the electricity, the post, so he will have to deal with us."

Despite his fiery rhetoric on privatization, critics say Netanyahu has so far done nothing. Some analysts interpret this as a sign that in a nation with a long tradition of public ownership, any rush to privatize has political as well as economic risks.

Israel's Illegal Indian Immigrants

Director-General of the Ministry of the Interior Amram Kalaji has called on former Minister of Agriculture Yaakov Tsur to fulfill a personal obligation he took upon himself while serving in the previous government.

Last May, 800 citizens of India arrived in Israel for the international Agritech exhibition. Interior Ministry officials suspected that not all of them were in fact Agritech-bound, and that they were not planning to leave Israel at the end of their authorized stay. The officials refused to allow them entry, until Tsur arrived on the scene, and promised Kalaji - in writing - that they would all depart Israel at the proper time.

The Interior Ministry has disclosed that more than 300 of the Indians have not yet left, and that their whereabouts are unknown. Kalaji has called upon Tsur to fulfill his promise. Arutz-7 notes the government is attempting to deal with the 100,000 illegal workers presently in the country, and Labor Minister Eli Yeshai plans to implement a plan to deport 1,000 illegal workers monthly.

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