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Two Years? How About Weekly?

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Benjamin Netanyahu looks at Arye Dery as they stand with Bezalel Smotrich (right) and other members of the new Israeli parliament after their swearing-in ceremony in Jerusalem in November.
Benjamin Netanyahu looks at Arye Dery as they stand with Bezalel Smotrich (right) and other members of the new Israeli parliament after their swearing-in ceremony in Jerusalem in November.Credit: RONEN ZVULUN/Reuters

It is going to be a particularly bad government. Too big, too unwieldy, hobbled by the division of ministries and the rotation of ministers. It will have 30 cabinet members and 32 ministries, half of them superfluous. Prof. Cyril Parkinson, author of the book “Parkinson’s Law,” proposed that the optimal size of a cabinet is somewhere between three and 20. Beyond that number, it reaches a “coefficient of inefficiency,” in which governance is adversely affected, stability is undermined, faults are revealed, arguments increase – and the government’s expiration date nears.

Benjamin Netanyahu doesn’t care about any of this. He will pay any price in order to form a government that will enable him to get his trial canceled. To that end, he has already agreed to divide ministries into small crumbs, hand out jobs indiscriminately and introduce the rotation of important cabinet posts. Whatever it takes to keep everyone happy.

Last week Bibi boasted that he wasn’t going to give the Defense Ministry to the messianic Bezalel Smotrich. But at the same time, he gave the Public Security Ministry (excuse me, I mean the National Security Ministry) to the pyromaniac Itamar Ben-Gvir, and also agreed to give him control over the Border Police in the West Bank, which has always been under the command of the Israel Defense Force. This amounts to giving the Kahanist a “private army” while creating chaos and lack of coordination among the security forces.

He split the small and superfluous Ministry for the Development of the Periphery, the Negev and the Galilee into the Periphery Development Ministry, which will go to Shas, and the Negev and Galilee Development Ministry, which will go to Otzma Yehudit. The ministry’s annual budget was tripled, to 2 billion shekels ($590 million), and branches of other ministries will be attached to it. It will also include a new Administration for the Regulation of Young Settlement, a euphemism for legalizing 50 illegal settlement outposts in the West Bank that the government had pledged to dismantle. Now, instead of dismantling, we’ll get “regulation” and an explosion of violence in the territories.

The fake-ministry for Jerusalem Affairs and Heritage will be split into the Jerusalem Affairs Ministry, which will go to United Torah Judaism, and the Heritage Ministry (Otzma Yehudit). Even Parkinson never imagined such examples of rot and bloating in the public sector.

But all of this pales in comparison to the new method for sabotaging proper administration and governance: rotations in the major ministries – finance, interior, transportation and perhaps also education and health. The worst is the first in this list. A new minister coming into this vast and complex institution needs many months to really get the lay of the land. But as soon as he does, the bell will ring, telling him it’s time to leave his position to make way for another minister who is his political rival. Therefore, he will not plan for the long term, but only for the short term. Therefore, he will not carry out reforms that require a long time to mature, and that is bad for the economy. A business managed like this would go bankrupt. A government that operates this way will cause major economic crises.

And it’s especially troubling because Smotrich and Arye Dery have opposite worldviews. Smotrich is a free-market adherent who believes in competition, privatization, reducing tariffs, revoking exemptions and introducing reforms that will put the fat public sector on a diet. Dery is a populist who is all about milking the government for budgets, grants, stipends, food coupons and jobs for Haredim. He wants to increase government spending and expand the deficit, and also supports wage hikes.

As soon as Dery replaces Smotrich in the treasury, he will bring the Finance Ministry to a screeching halt, turn everything completely around and begin speeding in the opposite direction, which will lead to a loss of control, crash and crisis. People in Shas say Dery is afraid he won’t get his two years in the ministry, since the government won’t survive its full term. Well, then, I have a suggestion: Why not go with a weekly rotation, like the cooks in the army have? If the basic idea is to destroy the economy, then they might as well go all in.

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