As Western Governments Embrace Change, Israel Can Only Envy Their Enthhusiasm

After the cheese holiday ends, will something move in our region, aside from the ministers' jaws?

Maybe we shouldn't be jealous. Who knows - maybe the new British government, too, will end up with a minister with the mentality of a nightclub bouncer, who will pick fights with the whole world on the strength of the joke of his having been appointed foreign minister. They may well also have a deputy minister who represents the bones of the dead, an interior minister in charge of silencing people and deporting foreigners, and a row of retired generals whose entire purpose comes down to predicting the character and date of the next war.

Might it not turn out that there as well, there will be half a dozen ministers and deputy ministers who do not know what their job is, except to comment on anything and everything? Perhaps even their prime minister, David Cameron, will view his main task as being a cautious tightrope act, shakily swaying right and left, with his one goal being not to fall.

Meanwhile, there is no evidence that this will happen, and therefore there is no consolation in it for us. The new British government is reportedly getting to work - decisively, enthusiastically and happily - just as the American one did last year. Once again we see young people who have come to change and improve things, not to babble. In his first cabinet meeting as premier, Cameron announced a 5-percent cut in ministers' pay, a freeze on wages in the public sector, a 10-percent reduction in air pollution from government institutions and the creation of the National Security Council; he also told the ministers to make sure their cell phones were turned off during cabinet meetings.

"I don't want to hear warm words about the environment, I want to see real action," Cameron said. Of course, fans of the British TV show "Yes, Prime Minister" can doubt and disparage, knowing that everything will in any case be stopped short by some Sir Humphrey. But that smooth-tongued arch-conservative, the man of stagnation and of yesterday, is a clerk. Over here, Sir Humphrey is the prime minister himself.

Like weddings and funerals, elections and the formation of governments in other countries are milestones that invite comparisons. In "regular" times, when scandals come fast and furious, we do not realize the extent to which the culture of government in Israel has declined to the level of a third-world country, or the extent of our voluntary stagnation. But from time to time, the sight of the energy and excitement that accompany change and renewal in other places tugs at our heartstrings.

No wonder almost every new government that is elected in the West, no matter its political orientation, fills Israelis with jealousy, if only because of what has been largely forgotten in Israel: the will, the enthusiasm, and even the joy of taking on critical problems and genuinely trying to solve them.

One look at the dour, angry faces of Israel's ministers and premier is enough to see how the cabinet (at least this one ) views its role: not a springboard to hope and action, but a bunker of fear, a hiding place in which its members shiver and face off against the changing winds of the world.

From that perspective, Israel's cabinet is less like its British counterpart and more like the "great assembly (knesset ) of loafers" described by the 19th-century writer Mendele Mocher Sforim: a place where the wealthy of the Jewish village and its loafers lie behind the stove or on the upper bench of the bathhouse, prattling on about the world, tossing out guesses, predictions, threats of war, glorifying fig cakes and dates and other symbols from the Land of Israel.

Because after all, our ministers, just like Mendele's Diaspora Jews, deal mainly with complaints like: "How long, Master of the Universe, will Ishmael's guiding light rule the world?" And now, with the arrival of the last of the spring holidays, with the period of "after the holidays" peeking through the cracks, will our loafers stop their blathering and buckle down to do something to improve things? For example, will the government jump at the opportunity to make peace with Syria instead of using every opportunity to guess when the next war will take place and how many fatalities there will be? After the cheese holiday ends, will something move in our region, aside from the ministers' jaws? Don't worry: After Shavuot comes summer, and it's too darn hot. The Knesset goes into recess, and then come all the fall holidays. So what do people want from them, anyway?