For the second day in a row, rumors flew around the political scene on Monday
that the government was formulating a plan to deploy IDF troops in the event of
a port strike.
“No such program exists in the Transportation Ministry,” a
ministry spokesman said.
“There’s no plan I know of for the IDF to enter
the ports,” added a spokesman for Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett,
adding that journalists “got carried away. I think what they were getting at was
‘We’re ready for battle.’” Transportation Minister Israel Katz said on Sunday he
was considering legislation to circumscribe port strikes and allowing foreign
companies to operate ports in the event of a strike, but made no mention of any
plans to deploy the army.
On Monday, Bennett requested that the Antitrust
Authority commissioner declare the ports a monopoly, which would force the ports
to sell some of their platforms to new companies.
That, he argued, would
be a way to introduce competition quickly instead of waiting an estimated six
years for a new private port to be built.
The commissioner on Friday
classified the ports as oligopolies, barring them from opening new ports or
Bennett also requested that he investigate the ports for
possibly creating other barriers to entry in the market.
Each year, the
Israeli economy imports and exports goods totaling over 60% of GDP through the
sea ports, Bennett said.
“The lack of competition puts an excessive,
expensive burden on the Israeli public of hundreds of millions of shekels a
year,” he declared.
The Israel Manufacturers Association estimated that a
week of port strikes cost the business sector NIS 340m. in revenue, and cost the
economy some NIS 200m.
A Finance Ministry report released Monday showed
that the top three wage-earners in state-owned companies were all ports, with
the annual Haifa port wage topping the list at NIS 458,400 in 2012, nearly
triple the national average.
The report also showed, however, that while
the ports remained profitable, the fourth highest wage-earner on the list, the
Israel Electric Corporation, accounted for most of losses in the government
companies. Whereas the ports brought in NIS 508m. in 2012, the IEC lost NIS
In response to the rumors of IDF intervention in the ports, Energy
and Water Minister Silvan Shalom announced Monday that he would “stand with the
workers at the harbor gates if it is decided to bring in the army.”
is a crazy idea that must be taken off the agenda immediately. I don’t want to
live in a country that deploys the army to break unions,” he said.
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