It's pretty much the same across the 40 or so countries that can claim to be functioning democracies. Elected officials sit at the top, and claim to be running things, but they are dependent on professionals in the administrative departments to advise them on what is possible and wise, and to carry out what the politicians decide.
An American colleague published a book called Implementation, in which he estimated that less than one percent of what politicians called policy was actually delivered as intended.
It's also the case that the professionals decide by themselves most of which stands as the actions of government. There's' too much going on for the political heads of departments to know or care about all that happens within their jurisdiction. Many--perhaps most--politicians with executive appointments don't understand or pay attention to what happens within their jurisdiction. They may hold each job only for a few months, and spend their time maneuvering for something with more prestige.
We're seeing an example of professionalism versus politics here, as the police have been investigating the Prime Minister, his wife, and one of their sons for various infractions. The Legal Adviser to the Government usually makes the ultimate decision about high profile indictments, and he is a political appointee. The incumbent in that office used to be Secretary of the Government, i.e., a position where he worked closely with the Prime Minister.
Chances are that this Legal Adviser aspires to be something more prestigious. Some of his predecessors made it to a seat on the Supreme Court.
However that man acts with respect to charges against the Prime Minister or family members will invite criticism from one direction or another.
He's already indicated that he'll try to side step their cases, and leave to a colleague in the prosecutor's office to handle the country's hottest potatoes.
They are heating up with media sources indicating that the police are about to recommend an indictment of Sara for the improper use of public resources. Said to be involved is her charging the nursing care of an ailing parent to the government, and exaggerating the charges made to the government for the meals of official guests.
Opposition politicians are excited, but some are wondering about the triviality of the details. And whether they can unseat a Prime Minister via the behavior of his wife. The PM's supporters are already attacking the media for reports about Sara confusing the accounting while caring for her dying parent.
On the other hand, we've heard for years about various improprieties in the Prime Minister's household. Much of what we know about Sara consists of equally trivial instances. The big picture may be damning, but it's not concrete enough to bring to court.
Perhaps police, prodded by the media, are grasping at straws that may weaken Bibi, who is also suspected of various improprieties.
Senior officers may be concerned to use a high profile investigation to improve the standing, and maybe the budget of the police.
Others may be expressing their strong personal antipathy to the Netanyahus.
And there's always another hand. The police may be doing their professional job in the strictest sense. They have found what seem to be violations, and will be passing them on the prosecutor with a recommendation to bring an indictment. The problematic case may sit on the prosecutor's desk for some time while whoever's in charge ponders the plusses and minuses.
The media is part of the democratic process. The cartoonist for Ha'aretz publishes time and again drawings of the first family that emphasize Sara's porcine appearance, and the Prime Minister acting in a questionable manner. One showed the first family celebrating and violating the Sabbath, with the Prime Minister smoking one of the cigars received as a gift. He's saying that he ordered the halting of work on the Sabbath.
Meanwhile, other more serious charges are bubbling their way through various bureaucracies. Bibi may come to feel the wind and strike a bargain to resign in exchange for no or only minor charges being brought against him and his family.
One of charges concerns a close aid of the Prime Minister and the German firm that builds submarines for the Israeli navy. This has joined another media spectacle coming from a sloppy case of international relations. The PM invited the German Foreign Minister to Israel, and then refused to meet with him on account of the German's meeting with left wing critics of Israeli settlements, civil rights, and the actions of the IDF. Israeli media provided step by step details about Netanyahu's public ultimatum to the German (if you meet with them I'll not meet with you), then the German's statement that he felt entitled to meet with representatives of any organization not outlawed in Israel, then the Netanyahu's subsequent telephone call to the German, the German's refusal to accept the call, and both governments' statements that good relations will continue despite the blip.
The cartoonist for Ha'aretz poked at the Prime Minister for snubbing the government subsidizing his navy's submarines.
Meanwhile, there have been a couple of scuffles that say something about the nature of Judaism and Israeli politics. Neither are earthshaking, except for some of those who feel strongly about such matters.
Ariyeh Deri, the leader of the SHAS ultra-Orthodox Sephardi political party, announced that he would not be mourning on the day set aside to commemorate victims of the Holocaust, because it is not appropriate to mourn during the month of Nissan. This despite the long history of the day, defined as the 27th of Nissan, signed into law by Prime Minister David ben Gurion.
And the head of Jewish Home (Orthodox) Naftali Bennett, acting as Minister of Education, has upset many and confused others by postponing this year's school holiday for Lag B'Omer from Sunday to Monday so that the preparation of bonfires and activity by the police and fire brigades would not occur on the Sabbath. In contrast, Ultra-Orthodox rabbis announced that their people would celebrate the holiday on the day in the Hebrew calendar that is traditional, despite it falling this year on a Sunday. And except for some Orthodox, many Israelis are in loud complaint about the change in the school calendar announced with only three weeks warning. It upsets vacation and work plans for teachers and parents, and pupils preparing for exams whose schedule will also be knocked for a loop.
If there is an election in our near future, it'll be a guess as to whether this Lag-B'Omer maneuver gains or looses votes for Jewish Home.
Politics. like economics and other social sciences does not reduce all its concerns to crisp definition, cold analysis, and clear conclusions. There are highly sophisticated analyses with respect to some issues, but others come down to nothing more than informed guesses about some of society's most crucial concerns.
Individuals show a variety of motivations, strong egos and efforts to maximize their positions and their beliefs. Neither the laws of science nor those enacted by the legislature operate as some would like.
Ira Sharkansky (Emeritus)Department of Political ScienceHebrew University of Jerusalem