Not Just Yishai

Eli Yishai is only one minister in the government, all of whose members are responsible for the Carmel fire disaster.

Interior Minister Eli Yishai has been getting most of the blame for the Carmel fire debacle, but many Israelis understand that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu bears responsibility as well. Still, Yishai, whose unfounded claim that he's been targeted because he's Sephardi, ultra-Orthodox and rightist, is clearly responsible for many of the oversights revealed in last week's disaster as well as for other fiascoes of recent years.

But he is only one minister in the government, all of whose members are responsible for this disaster and the numerous debacles uncovered here daily. True, some were legacies from previous governments, but that doesn't detract from their responsibility for this and other serious problems plaguing the country.

The list is quite long. It includes mistakes in handling specific issues with long-term repercussions, and substantive failures that also have long-term effects and are liable to expose Israel to internal, external and international harm.

The entire government - including the prime minister, who's been trying to portray himself as a "leader" in the media - is responsible for the Gaza flotilla debacle, which did great damage to Israel's international image and to its relations with Turkey. (It is also doubtful that the assistance provided by Turkey this week signifies a fundamental change in policy ). The government is to blame for the fact that Gilad Shalit is still in captivity, and although it has tried to pass on blame to Hamas, this also has long-term repercussions for the country. And who, if not the current government, is responsible for the shameful treatment of foreign workers and refugees, whom it denigrates by calling "infiltrators." And need we mention how it treats Holocaust survivors?

Neither can this "liberal" government be clearly of responsibility for the country's fundamentally distorted and deteriorating socio-economic situation, the consistent rise in poverty and the widening gap between rich and poor. Hundreds of thousands of children in this country live in poverty, and who, if not the government, is responsible for wage gaps, even within the public service? And what about our shaky health and education sectors? And the status of Israel's minorities?

This government is as responsible as the Palestinians are for the impasse in the peace process. Instead of repeating the same groundless declarations about how Israel is doing everything to promote the peace process, Netanyahu and his fellow minister need to come to terms with the fact that both sides bear equal blame for the continuation of the conflict.

One of the problems plaguing this, as well as previous, governments is a lack of transparency in policy making. A sound democracy doesn't need an organization like WikiLeaks to reveal its policies. Transparency is essential if the public is to make informed judgments about its government and decide whether it wants it to continue to serve or not.


The writer teaches political science at the Hebrew University.