The Holyland project in Jerusalem
The Holyland project in Jerusalem Photo by Eyal Toueg
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Israelis love to say their regulators and institutions lack public responsibility, but that may be even more true than they think, say two researchers.

Political scientist Asaf Matskin and sociologist Ilana Paul-Binyamin, both of Beit Berl College, created a social responsibility index for rating the institutions charged with safeguarding Israel's citizens in all aspects of life.

They reviewed 139 failures that received media exposure last year and the agencies responsible for oversight. Their assumption was that in each case, someone was to blame. They named their findings the Beit Berl Index for Social Justice.

For each case, they conducted surveys to determine the public's opinion of what happened and also consulted with experts in the relevant fields.

On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest, Israel's leaders received a ranking of 5.5 in terms of social responsibility from the researchers, a grade they deemed to be between "insufficient" and "sufficient."

Survey respondents were more generous, giving the country's leaders a ranking of 6.1.

The government and its representatives tend to ignore their responsibility to the public, and this damages democracy, stated the researchers. The public's faith in state institutions has been eroding over the years, they added.

Of the failures they analyzed, the Carmel forest fire was by far the most significant instance of shirked public responsibility, they said. That incident, which occurred in December 2010 and claimed 44 lives, ranked 1.8 on their scale.

The country's gasoline crisis, which has brought gas prices to an all-time high, came nowhere near to involving the same kind of failing. It ranked a more reasonable 6.1, they stated. However, they found that it involved some of the highest levels of the country's leadership, and found its implications for the country to be quite serious.

The Holyland real estate corruption affair received a scathing grade of 2 due to the high level of the officials involved, namely former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

The researchers were also critical of the state's failure to integrate Ethiopian immigrants, and gave the case a grade of 2 due to its long-term implications.

They also slammed the country for hospitals' and schools' lack of earthquake preparedness, giving it a grade of 2.5 on the public responsibility scale. Even though no Israelis have been harmed by this to date, this failure ultimately could exact a very high price, they noted.

"When we built the index, we didn't care whether the failure in public responsibility had already led to a disaster or was liable to cause one in the future," said Matskin. "There are still 3,000 Pal-Kal ceilings that haven't been fixed, even though they should have been following the Versailles wedding hall disaster, and the fact that there hasn't been another disaster since then is simply a coincidence."

The researchers surveyed the public to find out which institutions had the best - and worst - reputations for public responsibility. Cabinet ministers ranked lowest, followed closely by the leaders of the Histadrut labor federation and the local authorities.

On the other end of the scale was the Israel Defense Forces' leadership, which received the highest score - 7.7. Afterward came the firefighters (7.3 ), the medical leadership (7.1 ), public medical institutions, the Israel Prison Service and the High Court justices.

The army received a higher ranking than it deserves, Matskin said.

The researchers found that the higher the socioeconomic status of the respondents, the higher they tended to rank most state authorities, most likely because people who are better off receive better state services.