Israel has no policy strategy, say experts

Without a strategic plan, policies are created and put in place willy nilly, without coordination, long-term funding, and assessment of their long-term consequences.

November 10, 2014 20:37
3 minute read.

knesset . (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)


Dear Reader,
As you can imagine, more people are reading The Jerusalem Post than ever before. Nevertheless, traditional business models are no longer sustainable and high-quality publications, like ours, are being forced to look for new ways to keep going. Unlike many other news organizations, we have not put up a paywall. We want to keep our journalism open and accessible and be able to keep providing you with news and analyses from the frontlines of Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World.

As one of our loyal readers, we ask you to be our partner.

For $5 a month you will receive access to the following:

  • A user uxperience almost completely free of ads
  • Access to our Premium Section and our monthly magazine to learn Hebrew, Ivrit
  • Content from the award-winning Jerusalem Repor
  • A brand new ePaper featuring the daily newspaper as it appears in print in Israel

Help us grow and continue telling Israel’s story to the world.

Thank you,

Ronit Hasin-Hochman, CEO, Jerusalem Post Group
Yaakov Katz, Editor-in-Chief

UPGRADE YOUR JPOST EXPERIENCE FOR 5$ PER MONTH Show me later Don't show it again

Israel’s policy-makers are not acting within a strategic framework, said a group of experts at a Taub Center for Social Policy Studies conference in Jerusalem on Monday.

“There is a quiet crisis of government institutions in Israel,” said Steven Popper, a public policy expert at the RAND research corporation.

Be the first to know - Join our Facebook page.

The government, he said, has not updated its systems to align with the needs of a modern, complex economy and society.

“Israel is no longer a country of halutzim [pioneers] and small businessmen. It’s increasingly becoming an important node in the knowledge society,” he said.

Without a strategic plan, policies are created and put in place willy- nilly, without coordination, long-term funding, and assessment of their long-term consequences, the experts at the conference said.

“One of the primary problems in Israel is a lack of knowing where we want to go, a lack of knowing what the problem is,” said Dan Ben-David, the Taub Center’s executive director.

Several of the reasons for lack of institutional strategic thinking – a problem that plagues many modern democracies – are structural.

The instability of the government means that ministers aren’t in their jobs for very long, and are often there for the wrong reasons. While the government’s professional staff may remain stable for years, their bosses come and go based on electoral performance and coalition politics, the experts noted.

Another factor is that there is no mechanism to coordinate professional and political staffs from the various ministries and connect them to a long-term plan, they added.

Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai compared long-term project planning to a pipe with 18 valves, each controlled by a different politician, bureaucrat or institution that needs to be wooed to open it up. The best way to get the government on board on a project, he half-joked, was to foment a crisis it could not ignore.

But at least part of the problem, according to Ben-David, is personal.

“In all honesty, it’s a leadership issue. Even if you have a minister who’s not an expert in the area of health or economics, he should know what it is that he wants,” he said.

Even with well-intentioned leaders, the lack of information, formal study, coordination or policy review can prove fatal to good planning.

Often, leaders do not even insist on a variety of policy options for dealing with a particular issue, the experts said.

The lack of strategic thinking and long-term planning helps account for the government’s inability to deal with some of Israel’s more worrying trends, despite agreement that they should be fixed.

“It’s like amateur hour, and this country does not have the degrees of freedom other countries have. You can’t get it wrong so many times,” Ben-David said.

For example, Israel’s showing on international education tests has been reliably mediocre. Education is worst among the fastest growing sectors of the population, while worker productivity has fallen to among the lowest levels of the OECD.

Crowding on the roads has increased, even as the proportion of drivers has fallen, and the cost of housing has continued to soar. Inequality in Israel is surpassed only by the United States among rich countries.

A strategic plan could coordinate policy in a way that would fix several problems at once. For example, by improving public transport and schools in areas outside big cities, the government could help people move away from the crowded centers and lower the costs of housing there, the experts suggested.

Given his long tenure, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has a unique opportunity to fix the system, Ben-David said.

“For someone like Netanyahu, this could be a [former prime minister David] Ben-Gurion moment. Do you want to be continuously elected or do you want to change the country?” he remarked.

Related Content

The Teva Pharmaceutical Industries
April 30, 2015
Teva doubles down on Mylan, despite rejection