The huge Boeing 747 cargo planes lumber one after another into Ben-Gurion International Airport from West Germany and the United States laden with color television sets and luxury appliances.
The goods arrive none too soon for frenetic Israeli customers, who buy the reduced-price goods off delivery trucks double-parked in the main shopping streets.
Docks at the port of Haifa are crowded with newly imported cars, their duties slashed 10 percent, and the buyers line up at the showrooms clutching checkbooks.
The government announces that property and inheritance taxes are abolished. The number of wage earners allowed to fit in the bottom tax bracket is doubled and the number in the top bracket is halved.
It is election time in Israel.
In a dramatic reversal of Israel's conventional approach of economic control, in which increased income has been matched by increased taxes to restrain private expenditure, the government has unleashed an unprecedented buying spree.
Depending on who is talking, it is either crass election-time bribery that will send the already 130 percent annual inflation spiraling to new highs, or a bold new "supply-side" approach loosely fashioned after the fiscal policies of the Reagan administration.
There has always been a degree of election-time economic favoritism in past Israeli politics, although it usually has been directed toward specific segments of the voters -- cornerstone-laying for new housing projects, unexpected salary increases for public employes, interest-rate adjustments and even tampering with the foreign-exchange rate and the cost of living index.
But critics of the government's sweeping new economic approach charge that Prime Minister Menachem Begin and his ruling Likud government have added a new dimension to the practice, providing preelection benefits to all potential voters.
Many Israelis laughingly call it baksheesh , or bribery, campaigning. But they seem happy with the tax-cut and price-slashing bonanza, and the Likud's ratings in public opinion polls have been steadily climbing -- to the consternation of the oppositon Labor Party of Shimon Peres.
The new economic policy began on Feb. 1, two weeks after the appointment of Yorman Aridor, 48, a lawyer and economist, as Begin's third finance minister. He reduced taxes by 10 to 15 percent on small and medimum-sized cars, color television sets and many appliances, arguing that with a relatively small cut in tax receipts, the government could greatly stimulate the economy and boost its overall revenues.
The first phase of the program has met with some success. Israelis scooped up an estimated 8,000 new cars, 10,000 televison sets and 20,000 major electrical appliances in the first month -- an enormous buying binge for a country with fewer than 4 million people. The government estimated that its treasury was able to collect $81 million more than it spent in February, and for the first time in years it could announce that it had stopped printing money.
Last week, Aridor launched the second phase of his program, cutting taxes by 10 to 15 percent on furniture, toys, tape recorders, electrical games and a number of other popular items. This was less successful. As the Israeli shekel was devalued against the dollar, Aridor was forced to partially restore taxes on some products.
But the spending splurge continues, with Israelis of varying affluency raiding their savings accounts to buy commodities they generally regard as being more durable than the currency -- particularly color television sets. The stores have been left with so many black-and-white sets that those prices have plummeted.
Accompanying the tax cuts on consumer items were announcements by Aridor that the government planned to reduce direct taxation by juggling tax brackets for an average increase in disposable income of about 20 percent.
Israel is one of the most taxed countries in the world, with an average tax rate of 40 to 50 percent of personal income, and a maximum rate that theoretically is 60 percent but that climbs to over 80 perent when social security and other levies are included. Additionally, there are steep indirect taxes, such as 12 percent value-added tax on most goods and services.
Embracing the notion that such tax levels reduce incentive for productivity, Aridor said his purpose is to restore tax reforms adopted by the former Labor Party government in 1976, but which had been eroded by inflation.
Elimination of the property tax, Aridor argued, will make little difference, because such taxes are already deductible from income tax. Similarly, abolishing the inheritance tax will have minimal effect, because most Israelis turn their property over to their children as they approach old age.
The Labor opposition has been near disarray since Aridor's popular tax cuts and price reductions, seemingly deprived of the one issue it had hoped would bury the Likud in the June 30 general election.
Tied to a belt-tightening, anti-inflation campaign platform it recently adopted, the Labor candidates have been unable to do more than sputter about "blatant vote-buying tactics." But, as one Likud campaign strategist said, "They can't very well condemn tax cuts and price reduction, can they?"
Aridor's speech, when the parliament gave the tax changes preliminary approval Tuesday, was not interrupted once by the usually vocal opposition benches. The only Labor speaker was Moshe Shahal, who is not a party economic expert.
"By passing this bill, the government is trying to bribe the people who already have a lot of money," Shahal said. "It's an all to transparent game of election politics. The Likud is going for broke, and if they don't win the election, they don't care who will have to pick up the pieces."
"I don't believe the people have so short memories. You cannot change a government that was bad all the time by doing these cosmetics at the last moment," he added.
That Aridor's economic reforms have been successful -- both as a campaign maneuver and as a tonic for the economy -- has not been disputed. But critics say long-term effects are another matter.
Some economic analysts predict that the tax-cutting and the surge in consumerism may backfire on the Likud in mid-June, just before the elections, when the cost-of-living index for May is to be released.