The last time the Labor Party convened, in March 2001, it elected ministers to Ariel Sharon's cabinet.

The central committee had been grousing that party leaders did not listen to them, did not consult them and - most heinously - did not bring them appointments and perks.

Ephraim Sneh picked up the vibes and proposed a revolution: the committee should appoint the ministers so that everyone would know on what side the bread was buttered. The applause thundered and Sneh was hoisted high on the party ladder - which is how he got appointed Transport Minister.

And Sneh has lived up to his word, as far as pork is concerned. He actively hinders competition, capitulates to unions, and makes as many political appointments as he can. Anything to appease the party's central committee.

Sneh stopped the construction of the private Jubilee Port in Ashdod because the union - which naturally has representatives on the central committee - would not have it. The minister thus left us at the mercy of the ports cartel. His excuse: "There was never room for privatization to begin with." Stalin would have been pleased.

Mayors of towns near the airport disapproved of takeoffs at 5:30 A.M., so Sneh quickly pushed the early birds back to 6:00 A.M. Who cares if it made it impossible for many European airlines to schedule effective connecting flights - the mayors have a say in the central committee.

Last week Sneh tried to torpedo privatization of the railroad between Kfar Sava and Rosh Ha'ayin, because the railroad workers are afraid of efficient private management. The director general of the Railroad Authority, Yossi Snir - Sneh's appointee, agrees with his minister.

A short while ago Sneh vetoed the closing of the polluting fish farm in the Gulf of Eilat. What's ecology compared to a request from Minister Shalom Simhon and the farmers' lobby - two very powerful forces on the central committee.

Privatizing El Al, the national airline, is not a concept Sneh is even willing to entertain. Its workers can't stand the idea.

Eight months ago Sneh allowed El Al to pump the security charge per passenger to an unprecedented $16 for a return flight. This week, in an unholy alliance with Shas and the National Religious Party, he killed competition on the popular New York route. Consequently, passengers will have to pay $300 more per ticket - just to finance El Al's bloated salaries and surplus manpower.

But the cherry on the pie was his decision to allow a plane full of roulette tables to get airborne - because it would "provide work" for Israel Aircraft Industries.

Sneh also recommended opening casinos in development towns, because that's what their mayors want. You guessed it - they too are movers and shakers on the central committee.

But this time the pressure mounted beyond tolerance. Sneh had to forgo his socialist revolution, his image of the new Jew - not with feet on the ground, but with casinos in the air.