What is Israel’s policy on the Palestinian issue? Nobody knows, because precisely in the age of crucial decisions, we have gotten into a situation where our future and that of our neighbors is in the hands of one man who shapes the policy, and nobody but he knows what his intentions are.
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The ministers in Benjamin Netanyahu’s government have no idea what his vision is or what his plans are, nor do they have any influence on the policy he will choose regarding the arrangement with the Palestinians. The government is not shaping Israel’s policy on this issue, and its members are waiting for Netanyahu to speak so they may know where the country is headed. Even worse, all the ministers have resigned themselves to this state of affairs and have given Netanyahu full autonomy to determine our future on his own.
Netanyahu is not the first prime minister to form policy without involving his government ministers. All his predecessors made crucial decisions and notified their governments’ ministers only once those decisions had been made. That was how Yitzhak Rabin decided about the Oslo process, Ehud Barak about the withdrawal from Lebanon and Ariel Sharon about the disengagement from Gaza.
But the difference between Netanyahu and all his predecessors is that he has no one to consult with. He seems to be the first prime minister who has no “kitchen cabinet.” Netanyahu, a suspicious man, does not give his kitchen to any of his colleagues at the cabinet table. His bureau no longer has advisers with whom he shares his intentions. He ascribes no importance to the Foreign Ministry, and he does not make use of the National Security Council to form policy.
In his previous government there were ministers beside him whose advice he could listen to and even discuss strategic matters with them, though he did not always trust them — for example, Barak, Dan Meridor and Benny Begin. Now, Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid are members of the so-called Forum of Seven. Netanyahu thus stands alone as he faces decisions that will determine Israel’s future. The future of us all depends on the decision of one man, who acts on his own in an isolation that is anything but splendid.
The members of the Winograd Commission, who probed the decision-making processes that led to the Second Lebanon War, analyzed very well the negative ramifications that could be the model Netanyahu is currently using. “Orderly decision making processes should provide the decision makers, and those who assess their conduct, with the means for structuring and considering discretion that will help limit the dangers of uncontrolled reliance on emotion, unfounded intuition, impulsive reaction, or personal and political considerations that may spoil what is underway.
Decision-makers who act without an organized staff or structured decision-making processes increase the fear that decisions will be made on a flawed factual and professional basis and without full, due thought given to all the relevant considerations. Moreover, without a structured procedure, there is a natural tendency to reach the conclusion largely on the basis of a ‘gut feeling’ and intuition untested by orderly critique by others with a different array of knowledge, experience, culture or ideology.”
As we deal with the debates and arguments over equal civic responsibility, the choice of the governor of the Bank of Israel and the performance of the Chief Rabbinate, our future and that of our children is being determined in the prime minister’s official residence. There, on Balfour Street in Jerusalem, lives the man with the power to decide our future on his own. That’s scary.