Faced with warnings about the dire state of the fire department on the eve of the Carmel fire, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu demonstrated no sense of urgency. But since the fire, he has been moving with impressive speed.
In the blink of an eye, he sent Joseph Ciechanover to use the "moment of grace" provided by the international rescue effort to salvage Israel's relations with Turkey. Ciechanover, who served as director general of the Foreign Ministry 30 years ago, when Moshe Dayan was minister, is now being asked to mend the damage caused by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's deputy.
Not long afterward, more tidings emerged from the Prime Minister's Office, accompanied by a nice group photo with a woman: Netanyahu has appointed Netanya Mayor Miriam Feirberg to oversee compensation for victims of the fire.
The letters of appointment issued to Ciechanover and Feirberg (if anyone even bothered to draft some ) are testimonials to the paucity of Israel's government. Ciechanover and Feirberg join Netanyahu's private lawyer, Isaac Molho, who represents him in negotiations with the Americans and the Palestinians. This is called outsourcing, a process the Hebrew version of Wikipedia describes as a modern method of management whose goal is to let subcontractors handle activities that are not among the organization's core functions, thereby freeing the organization to focus on its core functions.
But what are the government's core functions, if they do not include contacts with foreign countries or managing a crisis caused by poor preparation for a natural disaster - let alone peace negotiations?
The cabinet's conference table is too small to seat the 29 ministers who surround Netanyahu (in addition to nine deputy ministers ). On one side sits Moshe Ya'alon, a vice prime minister with no real portfolio who was once the army's chief of staff. Next to him is Silvan Shalom, a vice prime minister with a half-empty portfolio who was once foreign minister and before that finance minister. On the other side sits Dan Meridor, a minister without portfolio - excuse me, minister of intelligence and atomic energy - who has previously served as justice minister and finance minister. Next to him is another minister without portfolio, Benny Begin, a former science minister. And let's not forget Yossi Peled, a former major general and another minister without portfolio, or Michael Eitan, the minister in charge of improving government services. Meshulam Nahari also has a minister's office, complete with secretary, spokesman and driver - but no portfolio.
Ciechanover and Feirberg are talented, experienced and energetic people. There is no doubt that they will carry out the tasks assigned to them in the best possible way. There is also no doubt that had the Prime Minister's Office published want ads for an expert negotiator and a project manager, the government's tender committee could have found quite a few suitable candidates.
Likewise, there are many talented Israelis capable of filling the tiny shoes of Interior Minister Eli Yishai, and even some who understand economics better than Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz. Indeed, after the Carmel fire fiasco, it is far from certain that Netanyahu would win a tender to become PM.
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