Grading Israel's government, 100 days into office
Nothing has changed at the Defense Ministry, legal system is inefficient, cuts to education still imminent.
Barak Ravid / Easy tasks first
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman had a plethora of proposals when he entered office. Some he implemented immediately. Others, usually the more significant ones, proved difficult.
Which promises has he lived up to? Mostly the ones related to interministerial decisions. He vowed to appoint a director general from within the system and gave the position to veteran diplomat Yossi Gal. He pledged to participate in board meetings at 7 A.M. and for the most part remained true to his word. He promised a return to the ministry's traditional emphasis on advocacy, and began channeling funds to run a public relations campaign against the Iranian nuclear program, although it's still too early to see any results on this last matter.
On the policy front things are less upbeat. Lieberman announced he would handle ties with the U.S., but in fact Defense Minister Ehud Barak does. He declared he had been invited by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, but so far has seen Cairo only in postcards. Even his initiative to improve ties with Moscow has stagnated: The Kremlin seems in no hurry to respond to his offer. On one policy issue though he has fulfilled his promise - that of taking action vis-a-vis Iran. Next week he will tour Latin America in an attempt to counterbalance the Islamic republic's influence there. Whether or not the visit will be productive remains to be seen.
Anshel Pfeffer / Barak as diplomat
Ostensibly, nothing has changed at the Ministry of Defense during the first 100 days of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyhu's government.
Minister Ehud Barak still occupies the office he held in the last government together with the same deputy minister, director general and Israel Defense Forces chief of staff. Even the budget hasn't been altered much after the army yet again came out on top in its struggle with the treasury. Still, in recent months some change has taken place: Not only is the ministry in charge of defense, it's also in charge of foreign relations. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's controversial figure (see story above) has caused the government to place responsibility for ties with the U.S. in the hands of Barak.
Tension between Barak and IDF Chief Gabi Ashkenazi has flared up in recent months over appointing his deputy, and the position remains unoccupied although it should have been filled months ago.
Jonathan Lis / Showing who's boss
Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch whipped up a storm when he entered office, by revealing an ambitious plan to change the structure of the police force, revealing no fear of criticism from Police Commissioner David Cohen or his own predecessor. He quickly managed to shake off his image as a yes-man for Yisrael Beiteinu boss Lieberman, who is embroiled in a suspected corruption case and is being investigated by police.
His experience as a former deputy commissioner no doubt helped him ease into the position. At the same time Aharonovitch stopped the appointments approved by his predecessor Avi Dichter, claiming the latter's decision to appoint the next commissioner only from among his deputies was no longer valid, an announcement that shook the system. Finally, his decision to reinstate senior police officer Uri Bar-Lev and make him the police's attache in Washington, overruling the commissioner's decision, showed who was boss in the ministry.
Ran Reznik / Empty words
When he entered his new position Yaakov Litzman, who heads the Health Ministry from the position of deputy minister, declared he would "shake up the system." The United Torah Judaism lawmaker said he would revamp the health service, increase the number of doctors' shifts on weekends and reduce the cost of medicine.
How much of his vision has been implemented? Senior ministerial officials say not much. So far Litzman's "shake up" has manifested itself in a few surprise visits to emergency rooms around the country. Health Ministry officials say Litzman has managed to prevent many budget cutbacks since entering office.
Dana Weiler-Polak / Unfulfilled plans
Isaac Herzog chose to remain head of the Social Affairs Ministry, a position he has filled since March 2007, despite being offered another portfolio. During the first 100 days of his current tenure he devoted himself mostly to fighting planned cutbacks to his office's budget. Herzog managed to reverse a decision to privatize institutions caring for the mentally challenged as well securing funds for the National Insurance Institute. But he has yet to fulfill his promise to create a fund to help welfare organizations. An interministerial committee was set up to recommend how to create such a fund, but nothing has happened yet.
Another deferred promise is Herzog's plan to assist families in debt. He announced the plan would begin last May, but the tender for finding a company to implement the plan has yet to be published. Herzog has also targeted the economic gap between Israeli Arabs and Jews. Last week, during a visit to the Israeli Arab town of Umm al-Fahm, Herzog said he would funnel more funds toward the sector.
Zafrir Rinat / More effective
Gilad Erdan made two promises when he assumed control of the Ministry of Environmental Protection: To try and expand its authorities and increase law enforcement. His first promise will require the consent of the entire government. Erdan is working with the Prime Minister's Office to push forward his proposal, although he has encountered stiff resistance from such quarters as the Water Authority.
Enforcement of pollution laws has increased. For instance, swift action was taken against a chemical factory in Atlit suspected of polluting the environment with a cancerous substance. Erdan claims further changes will be seen after a committee submits its recommendations on how to improve the ministry's effectiveness.
Tomer Zarchin / Slow-turning wheels
During his swearing-in, incoming Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman said his main goal was to make the justice system more efficient and prevent delays in the processing of legal cases. Over the past few years Neeman, who used to head one of the country's top legal firms, openly attacked inefficiency in the judiciary. "We need to stop this dreaded 'documentology' where no hearing can take place unless both sides submit a ton and a half of paperwork," he said. Besides declarations, Neeman has yet to present an effective plan to change the system, which would require serious legislation and the complete cooperation of the justice system.
Zohar Blumenkrantz / Advancing slowly
Since becoming transportation minister, Yisrael Katz doesn't seem to be going anywhere in a hurry. So far he's set he has left his mark on one issue: organizing an order from Elbit for a missile protection system to be fitted in civilian airliners. His aides repeatedly say he is still studying his ministry. Even so, this does not explain why he has yet to visit Ben Gurion International Airport or the Israel Airport Authority, which are both under his jurisdiction. Katz did, however, find the time to visit the Paris Air Show to meet with representatives from France and Britain and the aircraft companies Boeing and Airbus.
Yair Ettinger / Reticent minister
Having received the Religious Services portfolio, Shas politician Yaakov Margi has refrained from making grand promises with one exception: to implement the recommendations of State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss, who found many failures. Lindenstrauss discovered in his report that the burial services were lacking and revealed suspicions of corruption in religious councils and among kashrut inspectors. Another issue on Margi's agenda is to do what his predecessor failed to do, and return much of the authority taken from the ministry in recent years. He also talked about facilitating access to religious sites for the public across the country. But Margi rarely comments on one major issue which needs to be settled soon - the need to appoint new chief rabbis to cities and neighborhoods across the country and particularly, a new chief rabbi for Jerusalem.
Ofri Ilani / Aiming high
For the first time in years a scientist is at the helm of the Ministry of Science and Technology. Prof. Daniel Hershkowitz of Habayit Hayehudi, formerly the head of the Technion - Israel Institute of Technology's mathematics department, announced shortly after assuming his new position that he had two key goals: Dealing with the so-called brain drain, in which Israeli academics are lured by foreign institutions; and improving science studies at schools. He can already boast an accomplishment, securing a 50 percent increase in his ministry's budget. A large part of the ministry's work is to cooperate with other countries on joint ventures. Last week Hershkowitz signed a deal of cooperation with Israel's space agency which will include joint development on building satellites.
Or Kashti / Sense of urgency
Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar's first task was to soften the blow of proposed cutbacks to his ministry. He succeeded only partially: He received NIS 400 million from the treasury to carry out his plans.
During his swearing-in ceremony in March, Sa'ar laid out his vision for the ministry's future. He said he wanted the national grade point average to rise, for students to succeed in international tests and for Zionist and Jewish values to be greater emphasis in classrooms. Two weeks ago he revealed a new target: to reduce violence in schools and strengthen discipline.
A key aspect of his plans is a conservative and traditional outlook. Another is their sense of urgency. The education minister wants to see results in the next two to three years. Sa'ar has also given an instruction that all students visit Israel's capital Jerusalem at least twice during their years in school.