Wednesday, 13 June 2007

Too many cooks

Last week, Shaul Mofaz travelled to the US for high level talks in Washington. As Israel's Minister of Transportation you would naturally expect these meetings to have discussed the sale of new aircraft or perhaps an exchanging of ideas on reducing car accidents. But let's be honest – Mofaz was Chief of Staff and Defence Minister, so talking about cars is a little beneath him. He might have got a better portfolio in this Government if he had jumped ship to Kadima a bit earlier. But Mofaz went down the opportunist path and stayed with Likud until he realised that he wasn't going to get a good job at the end of it. Sharon was smart enough to realise that he didn't need Mofaz as much as Mofaz needed him. And when Olmert was eventually elected, he wanted his most senior security man at the Cabinet table, so gave him Transportation.

Building a Cabinet can be a difficult challenge for a new Prime Minister, especially when leading a new party full of power-hungry opportunists and with several other coalition partners. To satisfy the many, Olmert appointed a record number of ministers, creating jobs that didn't exist previously such as Minister for Strategic Affairs (basically dealing with Iran which used to be the responsibility of the PM, Defence and Foreign Ministers). This is an old trick - in 1996, Bibi Netanyahu appointed Ariel Sharon to the new post of Minister for National Infrastructure, just as a way of giving him a job, but not a very good job. There is no earthly reason why a small country with a 120 seat parliament needs a minister responsible for sewerage, gas and electricity!

More ridiculous, Olmert appointed a whopping six deputies! Shimon Peres and Tzipi Livni both hold the title of Vice PM, and Mofaz, Avigdor Lieberman, Eli Yishai and Amir Peretz (soon to be replaced by Ehud Barak) are all Deputy PMs. This is absurd!

The problem here is that the Israeli Government is basically operating like a Jewish organisation. Take a shul for example - there's a Rabbi, a couple of wardens, a treasurer, a president, a vice-president, a secretary, a head of the ladies' guild, a caretaker and even an old fellow who's been a member for a million years - and they all think then run the place. There are 120 MKs who think that they should be running the Knesset and aren’t willing to cooperate with others unless they get something in exchange. Most analysts see this as a product of Israel being a young country which still requires serious reform before it'll settle down into something of a normal liberal democracy. Such reforms include local representation and a written constitution. It would be nice to add to that list a limit on the number of cooks allowed in the kitchen.

1 comment:

Emma Behrman said...

I like the picture!