Tel Aviv view.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Every year there is a new state budget with new cuts. What was approved last
year has just been retracted. Half-built roads and incomplete infrastructure
have been abandoned to gather dust. Metropolitan Tel Aviv still has no light
rail or subway, even though plans to build them have been in the works for
decades. Year after year the defense establishment is allocated more funds than
any other sector, even though it is always has unused surplus from the previous
year. The State of Israel has no long-term strategic plan, no clearly defined
objective, no tools to measure accountability.
Six months ago, the
Long-Term Socio-Economic Planning committee led by Prof. Eugene Kandel and
Finance Ministry director-general Doron Cohen submitted its recommendations
regarding state strategic planning. For over two years, the committee listened
to reports from dozens of specialists and to advice from two strategic
consulting firms. Its conclusion, which comes as no surprise, is that the
government has no long-term strategic or integrated plan, nor does it have a
comprehensive vision. The committee also believes that, due to institutional
failure, there is also no hope that one day it will.
Since there is no
single body in charge of long-term strategic planning, the Prime Minister’s
Office should create one. No one has ever engaged in true and profound strategic
thinking about our country’s vision.
No long-term decisions have ever
been made in industry, infrastructure, personal security, education, Arab-Jewish relations, secular-religious relations, economic centralization, security
or energy. Decisions are only made in times of crisis or due to pressure. Only
when faced with a security threat or a social uprising do leaders finally take
Israel lags significantly behind most of the developed world. The
government does not even meet the criteria that organizations subordinate to it
follow. For decades the IDF Planning Branch has been following a multi-year
plan. The Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), the Mossad and the Israel Police
also follow multi-year programs that have clear goals and performance
It is imperative that an office for strategic planning be
created at once (better late than never). However, for a strategic plan to be
successful, there must be continuity.
The state’s vision and strategic
plan cannot be changed every time a government is elected. To build and
implement a multi-year plan that sets clear objectives and delineates which
methods should be used to achieve them, the plan must remain constant over a
For a long-term strategic plan for the state to
succeed, a number of basic processes need to be followed: First, all government
offices need to participate in the preparation of said plan, including agreement
about its goals and means to reach those goals. In addition, each office needs
to have its own multi-year working plan before funds are
Second, the strategic headquarters needs to have the power
and authority to synchronize activity in all government offices.
to successfully implement a multi-year plan, there needs to be continuity.
Governments should not be changed as often as they currently are. Each
government needs to remain in power for a longer period in order for these plans
to be more effective. And the only way this will happen is by carrying out
reforms in the electoral process, which at present is not occurring.
even before reforms are carried out, it is advisable to encourage new
governments to follow plans that mesh with old ones.
So what’s the bottom
line? Unfortunately, it’s quite disappointing. A strategic planning headquarters
does exist, but it has no authority. The government does not have a culture of
strategic planning and government offices do not coordinate efforts with one
Most important, each prime minister is not in office long enough
to achieve any real goals. Instead, he spends all of his time fighting to stay
in office. In such an atmosphere, it is impossible for any government to carry
out long-term planning. The roads and trains will remain half-built, traffic
jams will get longer, relations between different social communities will
continue to be complicated and every year there will be more budget cuts. But
who knows, maybe we will be in for a nice surprise next year.The writer
is a former brigadier-general who served as a division head in the Shin Bet
(Israel Security Agency).
Translated by Hannah Hochner.