Editorial

Netanyahu Weakening Israel's Civil Service

Netanyahu is sacrificing the government’s most senior posts on the altar of his narrow personal considerations, while castrating its professional work and threatening the propriety of its administration

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the weekly cabinet meeting, Jerusalem, September 10, 2017.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the weekly cabinet meeting, Jerusalem, September 10, 2017. RONEN ZVULUN/AFP

After months of searching, and after some of the most senior and experienced officials in the civil service presented their candidacies, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has chosen an unknown, Ofra Bracha, to be the next civil service commissioner. Bracha comes from a low-level managerial job in the government and lacks the relevant managerial experience for her new position.

Very little is known about Bracha, and it’s hard to find anything in her CV that qualifies her for the job. Therefore, efforts to explain why Netanyahu chose her of all people have focused on their personal ties; her daughter and sister hold secretarial jobs in the Prime Minister’s Office, so Netanyahu knows the family personally and is apparently convinced of Bracha’s loyalty. Are familial connections and personal loyalty the prime minister’s main considerations in filling the most important jobs in the government?

The civil service commissioner is the most senior official in the government administration. The person who holds this office determines the procedures for senior government appointments and the procedures for evaluating and promoting 80,000 government employees, delegates managerial authority to government ministries, and cuts short or extends the terms of senior government officials.

The civil service commissioner is now embroiled in the fiercest battles related to government administration. He must fight the creeping trend by ministers toward weakening the professional bureaucracy and turning the officials who constitute the government’s managerial spine into political appointments. A committee headed by ministers Ayelet Shaked and Yariv Levin proposed drastic steps in this direction, but both the previous commissioner, Moshe Dayan, and the current acting commissioner, Ehud Prawer, blocked implementation of these proposals. It’s hard to believe that Bracha, devoid of both experience and reputation, will also be able to stand in the breach against political pressure from government ministers to weaken the government bureaucracy. Perhaps that’s why the prime minister chose her.

This is exactly what Netanyahu’s management of the government looks like – weak, petty and driven by personal interests. His previous appointments looked exactly the same: the last-minute change in his appointment of the Mossad chief; his preference for a weak state comptroller, on the assumption that this would blunt the comptroller’s criticisms; his all-out pressure for the appointment of his cabinet secretary as attorney general; and his choice of the previous attorney general on the basis of considerations of personal closeness.

Netanyahu is sacrificing the government’s most senior posts on the altar of his narrow personal considerations, while castrating its professional work and threatening the propriety of its administration. The choice of Bracha is just another link in a policy of many years’ standing. This is an appointment meant to weaken the civil service and undermine the public interest.

The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel