Netanyahu, Prime Minister for Corruption

Two moves being pursued with the premier's blessing weaken the professional echelon of government, undermine its independence and open it up to a wave of unworthy political appointments.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the World Economic Forum in Davos, January 23, 2016.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the World Economic Forum in Davos, January 23, 2016.Credit: AP

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu found himself a new enemy threatening his ability to govern: government administrators. It turns out that the professional staff at the government ministries are preventing him from governing, even after seven straight years as prime minister with no one seemingly able to unseat him.

Now that hes found a new nemesis – presumably the only reason his government is being defeated in the fight against the high cost of living and the battle to improve Israels international standing – he has also announced plans to neutralize it by doing away with the search committee for professional government staff and giving ministers the right to pick these professionals.

This move follows another process of weakening the status of 100 senior government officials who are chosen for a limited term, by giving the Civil Service Commission the right to dismiss them. The move is being made solely to facilitate the dismissal of Uri Yogev, the head of the Government Companies Authority. Yogev had launched a process meant to enhance professionalism, competitiveness, equal opportunity and proper representation of all communities in the appointment of government company directors.

This is what happens to the man who dares defy the kings word: he will be dismissed in a humiliating fashion. And since he cannot be fired on his own, the rules for dismissing most of the senior government executives will be changed in his honor.

Both these moves, which are being pursued with Netanyahus blessing, weaken the professional echelon of government, undermine its independence and open the government up to a wave of unworthy political appointments. The days in which the Likud Central Committee controlled the government have already led to serious charges against various ministers, and the price of corruption in government companies is being paid by all Israeli citizens.

The bribery investigations of Netivei Israel (formerly the National Roads Company), Israel Electric Corporation and Israel Railways are all the result of faulty management of government companies, which are controlled by aggressive unions and impotent executives who are ministers political appointments.

It is this reality that Yogev was trying to change by establishing that only those with the right skills, not the right connections, would be appointed to manage government companies. But this proposal, which was merely a first step toward uprooting corruption, is leading to his dismissal and the undercutting of the independence of an entire class of government managers.

Yogevs dismissal and the weakening of the professional government administration may serve the ministers in the short term and enhance their positions on the Likud Central Committee, but the country will pay heavily as government management deteriorates. Netanyahu knows what steps are needed to streamline government management, but his desire for political survival is once again clouding his judgment. Ordinary Israelis are the ones wholl pay the price.

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