It is almost impossibly hard to make the budget cuts that Israel so badly needs. It is much easier to divert attention with PR gambits, by making a seemingly impressive, but actually meaningless, cut.

This is the story behind the treasury's PR gambit yesterday, announcing an agreement to abolish the Communications Ministry.

Abolishing a whole government ministry sounds like a tremendous achievement. Dozens of officials with sky-high salaries can be thrown out, together with their expense accounts and pensions, headed by a minister with a gargantuan salary, a luxurious office, frequent travel abroad, fancy hotels, a stretch limo, a team of drivers, spokespersons, aides and secretaries, speech writers and advisors. The whole lot will stop draining the kitty, to the public's greater gain. No?

Not quite, in the case of the Communications Ministry. From the perspective of the national budget, the treasury's plan is akin to abolishing the job of a minister without portfolio. The whole ministry was created in any case to keep a minister without portfolio busy. He's get salary, office, drivers, and the rest without doing a stitch of work.

Moreover, there is no plan to abolish the role of the Communications Ministry. Therefore, the much-vaunted agreement will not lead to a single job cut.

Communications Minister Reuven Rivlin is the third consecutive person to sit in that chair and announce the closure of the ministry he heads. But Rivlin didn't think for a minute of sending his minions home.

The Communications Ministry has critical responsibilities, although it doesn't really need a minister. Unlike his predecessors Limor Livnat and Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, Rivlin actually did something about it - he established a team to recommend the method for turning the ministry into an authority with all the same jobs.

The team, headed by the ministry's director general, Uri Olenik, has representatives of the communications, justice and finance ministries. Differences of opinion among the parties were evident in its first meetings. Communications Ministry staff, who see themselves as the heirs apparent to head the nascent authority, demand as much independence as humanly possible.

Finance Ministry staff want the treasury to oversee or at least approve matters with economic significance, now handled by the Communications Ministry - like supervision of Bezeq and postal rates, allocation of frequencies, and setting royalties. The Justice Ministry also wants power over the new authority by making it a state corporation rather than an independent authority.

The dispute over control of the entity to replace the Communications Ministry ensures that actually abolishing the ministry will be a long and drawn-out procedure. Presenting the move as a brave decision to streamline and eliminate unnecessary government functions is nothing more than a PR stunt by the Finance Minister.

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