(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The government on Sunday approved the establishment of a ministerial committee to research issues and draft legislation concerning the country's welfare situation and the social services it provides.
"The committee will act as an important and central working tool in promoting interministerial programs for welfare services and working together with non-government organizations," commented Minister for Welfare and Social Services Isaac Herzog, who took over as head of the ministry a little more than a week ago.
Set to start its work immediately following Pessah, the committee will focus on how to improve services to weaker segments of the population and develop specialized projects in communities facing hardship.
"There is no doubt that this committee will allow us the opportunity to examine these issues in more depth and ensure they be brought to the daily consciousness and become a government priority," added Herzog, who had called for the committee to be set up as a condition for taking over the portfolio.
Herzog will be joined in the committee by Finance Minister Avraham Hirchson (Kadima), Education Minister Yuli Tamir (Labor), Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor Eli Yishai (Shas), Minister of Housing and Construction Meir Sheetrit (Kadima), Immigration and Absorption Minister Ze'ev Boim (Kadima), Pensioners Affairs Minister Rafi Eitan (Gil), Tourism Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch (Israel Beiteinu) and Minister of Science and Technology, Culture and Sport Ghaleb Majadle (Labor), as well as Ministers-without-Portfolio Ya'acov Edri (Kadima) and Yitzhak Cohen (Shas).
Director-General of the Prime Minister's Office Ra'anan Dinur and Director-General of the National Insurance Institute Yigal Ben-Shalom will also be permanent members of the committee.
The committee's first point of order will be to explore the relationship between the government and the volunteer sector, said a spokeswoman for Herzog.
Eran Weintraub, chairman of humanitarian aid organization Latet, which petitioned the High Court of Justice last month demanding that the state take over from more than 200 voluntary organizations that provide food for 200,000 families nationwide, welcomed the new committee's decision to contemplate the relationship.
However, he cautioned, "first the government needs to admit that it's their full responsibility to care for the citizens of this country."
Weintraub pointed out that Latet alone had already distributed NIS 7 million worth of food packages to needy families ahead of Pessah, while the government had contributed only NIS 3.6 million.
"NGOs should not be doing the government's work," he said. "They should just be backing up government work or acting as a model for future projects, nothing more."
As well as giving a green light to the new ministerial committee, the government also approved Sunday the appointment of Herzog's choice for director-general of the Welfare and Social Services Ministry, his adviser Nahum Iztkovich.
Former head of the Emek Hefer regional council, Iztkovich also served under the minister in his former post at the Tourism Ministry.