These are the issues Israel's new 'national missions' minister must tackle - opinion

Making an appointment is based on available dates and times, and is not always convenient for the person who needs to come to a government office.

 NATIONAL MISSIONS Minister Orit Struck arrives at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem for a group photo of the new government, last month (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
NATIONAL MISSIONS Minister Orit Struck arrives at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem for a group photo of the new government, last month
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

The leader of almost every government coalition in Israel has had to create ministries to appease and be filled by coalition partners. That’s one of the reasons that we now find Orit Struck of the Religious Zionist Party as national missions minister  – whatever that means.

Does it entail organizing delegations that go abroad? Any efficient junior secretary can do that. Does it mean thinking out of the box for the promotion and preservation of Jewish identity? There are enough rabbis in all streams of Judaism to do that? Does it mean encouraging immigration? There has long been a ministry for that, in addition to the work done in this regard by the Jewish Agency. So, what exactly should she be doing?

A national mission would be to at least pinpoint areas of injustice and deprivation of human rights, violation of laws and as a means to lower unemployment to as close to a zero level as possible. In other words, she should be a governmental ombudswoman, who brings such issues directly to the government table for discussion and from there, they should be passed on to the Knesset for action.

After all, not every government minister is in his or her role by virtue of Norwegian law. Some are also legislators and would therefore be carrying the ball on any particular issue.

 A plenum session on forming the government, in the Knesset, on December 29, 2022 (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90) A plenum session on forming the government, in the Knesset, on December 29, 2022 (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

Traffic violations and congestion

Let’s start with something that affects everyone: traffic violations and congestion. Itamar Ben-Gvir, the controversial national security minister and Otzma Yehudit leader, repeatedly states that he wants to ensure the safety and security of every Israeli citizen. That should go way beyond eliminating Palestinian terrorists.

What about the terrorism on our roads? It’s generally described as road rage but is no less a form of terrorism in which people are killed or injured. One of the reasons for this is that there are insufficient traffic police. They are needed not only for the purpose of controlling car and truck drivers but for preventing violence in buses, detaining jaywalkers, and arresting motorcyclists and riders of electric scooters who ride in pedestrian malls and on the sidewalks, turning life into a fearful nightmare for pedestrians, especially those with mobility problems.

For that matter, bicycles should not be on the sidewalk either, especially in streets with narrow pavements. Struck should be goading Ben-Gvir into doing something to remedy the status quo. Are we not in a reform era? So let him reform.

If he doesn’t have the budget, let him come to an arrangement with the various municipalities about authorizing local traffic inspectors, whose job is usually to impose parking fines, to do something more useful and meaningful.

Apropos parking fines: every municipality is going to be making a lot more money from rates and taxes, given the glut of high-rise construction, and also a lot more money in fines because population growth will result in more cars and more illegal parking. So why not use that substantial added income to build shelters for the homeless so that they don’t freeze to death in the cold of winter? Why not ensure that all the poor have warm quilted coats and jackets for winter, and that daily contact is made with all people who live alone, not only with Holocaust survivors and other senior citizens?

Mental illness

THERE IS a new and welcome focus on mental illness and how to prevent or at least ameliorate it. One way is to pay attention to one’s fellow being, especially those living alone and even more so to new immigrants living alone. This can be a task that goes through Struck’s office to municipalities, which in turn assign them to the youth groups in their towns, cities, synagogues, mosques and church groups. It’s a great way to infuse social responsibility.

Incidents of injustice and deprivation of human rights should be referred to Struck’s office for investigation and suitable action to amend such situations.

Unemployment absolutely requires reforms in the system. Almost anyone who has had to visit government offices has had the experience of arriving to find that they are only open to the public on certain days and at certain hours. This is extremely frustrating and time-wasting, especially for people who have traveled a long distance.

One expects government offices to be open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. or 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. but they’re not. The main taxation office in Jerusalem, for instance, is closed to the public on Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays. And of course, in Israel, Saturday is not a work day except in hospitals, the police, other emergency workplaces, and in non-Jewish towns and villages.

Why not have government offices and certain private enterprises open from 7 a.m. to midnight, with staff working on roster systems? This already applies to some supermarkets, road works and laying of train tracks and would relieve unemployment, create more efficiency and enable families in which both parents are working to have one parent at home in the daytime to take care of young children.

It would also solve the problem of having to wait for several months to make an appointment for passport renewal. This in itself is a scam on the part of the government because once a new passport is issued, the old one is canceled, even though there may still be several months before it officially expires. But passport holders pay for both the old and the new passport. There is no deduction on the cost of the new passport in relation to the number of months left on the old one.

A system whereby government and other offices remain open untill late at night would also obviate the need to make appointments and would revert to the former system of arriving at one’s own convenience and taking a number.

Making an appointment is based on available dates and times, and is not always convenient for the person who needs to come to a government office. If for whatever reason an individual must cancel an appointment, it could mean a wait of another six months, which is ludicrous.

These are just a few examples. There are many more flawed areas requiring the attention of a national missions minister. Perhaps Struck will give some thought to this and turn her ministry from a farce into a powerful force.