ישראל נאמן | Lectures, Articles, Tours: Israel | Mideast onTarget | Elliot Chodoff & Yisrael Ne'eman | Remedies for Isra-Mess – a Start

Remedies for Isra-Mess – a Start

28 September 2006

By Yisrael Ne’eman

With the new year upon us, it is definitely time to present solutions and not just complaints concerning the Jewish State, especially in the wake of the Hezbollah War. The Israeli political system is breaking down ideologically and structurally.

Answers do exist and have been discussed for years. The dominant feeling in Israel today is a crisis of confidence in the state and its institutions, making this an opportune time to begin with reforms. In order to do so Israel is in need of political quiet and broad based support for such ideas. Some remedies:

* Although in a recent public opinion poll published by Yediot Ahronot, PM Ehud Olmert is seen by a paltry 7% of the populace as being most fitting to be prime minister, the “winner” of the survey, former PM Benyamin Netanyahu received only 24%. As suggested by National Religious Party MK Zevulun Orlev, a national unity government ((NUG) is in order. The accumulated skills of a collective leadership are our only choice at the moment. Furthermore, the election date should be set now, for a national polling two years down the road. Technically, legislating a two week campaign with radio spots but no TV ads would be ideal. We need more work and less mud slinging.

* Israel needs to turn inwards to deal with massive administrative reform despite the fact that peace is not on the horizon, neither on the northern front nor with the Palestinians. On the internal front no one is expecting Olmert to continue with his “Convergence” plan, not even the PM, himself. The time is ripe for the establishment of a NUG, to be assembled with the right wing Yisrael Beitainu, Likud and even the National Religious Party. It would seem a stretch to include the hard line right wing religious National Union faction or the secular left Meretz, but if this could be done, so much the better.

* Differences between Left/Right, religious and secular can be dropped since major efforts are needed for administrative and electoral reform. The next elections need to be restructured on a half proportional and half regional representational system, meaning that the state is to be divided into 60 districts with a Knesset member directly elected from each. This way the periphery will have more of a voice in the legislature. To ensure national interests continue to be addressed the other 60 seats will continue to be elected in the proportional voting manner. No expansion of seats in the Knesset is necessary. This was originally suggested in 1977 by the reformist Democratic Movement for Change (Dash) faction, but got nowhere.

* The cabinet must be made up of professionals and not political cronies as is today’s system. Anyone qualified and approved for a cabinet position would be forced to resign any other public office he might hold.

* Quasi-governmental agencies such as the Israel Lands Authority (known as the “minhal”) and most local municipalities with their accompanying services (or lack thereof) are in serious need of reform. State workers should not be awarded their jobs because they have political connections. Paralyzing bureaucracy must be streamlined, bottlenecks broken and new regulations implemented. Organizations must know their realm of authority, not encroach on other offices or on the other hand, claim that others are responsible.

Many municipalities are bankrupt and inefficient because unqualified cronies are paid enormous salaries by the mayor’s office. This became even more blatant in certain regions in the north during the latest conflict. Those mayors and other public officials who failed so miserably this past summer need to be removed from office along with their underlings and if their behavior can be determined to be “criminal negligence” then state prosecution is in order. Appointed professional committees must replace them for several years, steamroll corruption and be an example of better local administration.

The civil sector must be judged with as much scrutiny as any private company, everyone must do their job. So whether it be the clerk who receives the public, the director general of a ministry or everyone in between, all must be held responsible. Multiple and accumulated failures slide by either undetected or unreported and bring the whole system down with them, especially during a crisis.

* The rule of law must be upheld, whether we are speaking of “spontaneous” illegal demonstrations by pro-Hezbollah Israeli Arabs or illegal building either by Beduin in the Negev or by West Bank (Judea and Samaria) Jewish settlement activists.

* The best example of disregard for acceptable normative behavior is the disaster in the president’s office. The presidency should not become another line on a politician’s CV. The office is ceremonial and can be served well by educators, scientists, academics, cultural and artistic figures. As a prerequisite to election, none should have held a salaried elected public office for ten years. The president is a symbol of the integrity of the state. Unbecoming behavior, even if legal, must bring an end to the incumbent’s term in office. This law exists today, but since the president is also a politician, Knesset members are reluctant to ask for his removal despite the fact that he has admitted to having sexual relations with one of his secretaries, but denies he forced her.

In short, we should demand competence and high moral standards from our leaders and public officials. Honor and respect need to be earned, they should not come with the titles given. This means working for the good of the state and the people, not just for oneself.