Israel's Government of Hypocrisy

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Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman take part in a weekly cabinet meeting.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman take part in a weekly cabinet meeting.Credit: GIL COHEN-MAGEN / POOL / AFP

The cabinet’s decision this week to approve Amir Peretz’s appointment as chairman of Israel Aerospace Industries even though he was disqualified by the panel vetting senior civil service appointments is further proof that the promises of change by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid were false promises. It turns out that the main changes are the names of the cabinet members. The new politics is amazingly similar to the old politics.

In 2013, when Lapid was finance minister, he came up with the idea of a competitive public process to find high-quality nominees for the boards of state-owned companies precisely to halt the handing out of jobs to cronies. “There’s no better expression of the new politics than cutting off the oxygen to political appointments,” he rhapsodized.

But now, not even 10 years later, Lapid and his cabinet colleagues have thrown a professional committee’s decision into the trash and approved Peretz’s appointment. They did this even though the panel found that his qualifications fell short of his political ties to the ministers making the appointment (Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman). What’s the point of a vetting committee if the government makes mincemeat of its decisions?

Time after time this “government of change” has been shown to be a government of hypocrisy. Lapid depicted himself as a general in the war against the appointing of political cronies, but just a few weeks ago it turned out that his sister-in-law, Ilil Keren, was appointed to the board of Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund. She resigned after the criticism, but that didn’t stop Lapid from criticizing the previous government’s corruption.

The message is clear: We’re different from them. It doesn’t matter what we do or how much we disregard laws, norms and proper administrative practice, corruption will never touch us.

Therefore, Lapid and Bennett are entitled to compensate former minister Asaf Zamir for his role in toppling the previous government by appointing him Israel’s consul in New York. And they’re entitled to appoint Environmental Protection Minister Tamar Zandberg’s husband, Uri Zaki, as chairman of the Herzl Center.

Lapid the opposition legislator came out swinging against well-padded cabinets. His Yesh Atid party boasted of its commitment to a cabinet with no more than 18 ministers. But today, the government he formed with Bennett has no fewer than 28 ministers.

Similarly, we all remember how, when Lapid was in the opposition, he adamantly opposed the so-called Norwegian Law that lets ministers resign from the Knesset so new MKs from their parties can enter it. “In the dead of night, like thieves, the coalition passed the Norwegian jobs law .... The fifth Netanyahu government is breaking all records for disconnection and imperviousness,” he said back then.

That didn’t prevent the “government of change” from expanding the law. Without a drop of shame, Lapid posed as socially conscious and justified this move on the grounds that it would get people from the country’s outskirts into the Knesset.

Enough of this hypocrisy. This government won’t win the public’s trust if its deeds don’t start matching its words.

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

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