Feb 9, 2011

Israeli Democracy

This is an article I originally wrote in 2007.  Nothing changes.

Israel is a peculiar kind of democracy. In practice, ultimate power does not rest with the Knesset, the Cabinet or even the Prime Minister. It is held by a small group of highly paid appointed officials in the Treasury. Every time there is a strike in Israel you will note that the relevant Minister is powerless to negotiate a settlement. Instead, the appointed Treasury official has total discretion.
            Years ago, the Cabinet decided to fortify Sderot against the Kassam rockets fired from Gaza, but almost nothing has been done because the Treasury officials have not allocated the necessary money. Similarly, the Israel anti-missile defense program is years behind, because the Treasury officials have not allocated the funds, as though nothing was learned from the Second Lebanon War. Another example is the “Chok Hahesderim” (The Arrangements Law) which is submitted to the Knesset together with the government budget.
            In the Arrangements Law, the officials can and do nullify legislation and change government and Knesset decisions as they see fit. There are laws which were adopted by the Knesset years ago but their implementation date is postponed time and again by the Arrangements Law.
            The appointed Treasury officials are a tough bunch who are not known for making any concessions. I think we should send them to negotiate with the Arabs while having other government officials negotiate with the Israelis strikers.
            Meanwhile the length of public sector strikes can be reduced remarkably by lowering the salary of the Treasury officials who are negotiating, to the average monthly salaries of the strikers (e.g., NIS 5,000 for teachers, NIS 4,000 for social workers) for the duration of the strike.

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