War Against Public Servants

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Israel's Finance Minister Yisrael Katz.

Finance Minister Yisrael Katz’s response to the resignation of the head of his ministry’s budget division makes it clear that Shaul Meridor did not resign over professional economic disagreements, but is a victim of the battle that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is waging through his loyal soldiers in the government ministries against civil servants and gatekeepers.

In an interview on Monday on Kan Reshet Bet radio, Katz proved he was an outstanding student of Netanyahu’s school of incitement. The finance minister attacked Meridor and accused him of joining the opposition to bring down Netanyahu. “He has gone back to his family roots of hostility and hatred for Netanyahu…for Likud…the black flags,” Katz said, alluding to Meridor’s father, a former Likud minister, Dan Meridor. Katz also accused Shaul Meridor of “constantly conspiring with various political figures.”

Meridor was therefore one of the targets in Netanyahu’s bank of targets, along with every official who believes that his loyalty should be to the state, the public and his professional task, rather than to Netanyahu and ensuring the latter’s political survival. A direct line connects Meridor’s resignation to the retirement of the accountant general, Rony Hizkiyahu, and the personal attack on Finance Ministry director general Keren Terner-Eyal (a loyal employee whom Katz brought with him from the Transportation Ministry) and the ministry’s legal adviser Asi Messing.

Netanyahu’s assault, via Katz, on the treasury officials, of which Meridor is the latest victim, is part of an all-out battle against whoever is perceived as threatening the continued rule of the indicted prime minister: the former police commissioner, Roni Alsheich, former State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan, Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit and Deputy State Prosecutor Liat Ben-Ari.

Obstructing Meridor sends a clear message to all officials in public service: This is what will be done to those who dare show independence and fulfill their professional duty instead of serving the personal interests of the prime minister. The severe damage to Meridor and his colleagues in other ministries therefore constitutes severe damage to the public interest, welfare and future. The public is the victim of the battle of Netanyahu and his soldiers.

Meridor’s resignation letter to the finance minister should therefore be read as a letter to the public: Israel today is a country in which “decisions are influenced by narrow, irrelevant, short-term interests, alongside the silencing of the professional echelon.” It is a country where “all principles, frameworks and restrictions are broken and values, rules and norms of a civil service acting on behalf of the public are trampled.” The only way to stop this avalanche is to be freed of Netanyahu’s choke hold.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.

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