The strong leader of the Federation of Local Authorities

 Haim Bibas  (photo credit: Tamar Green)
Haim Bibas 
(photo credit: Tamar Green)

“We know how to work,” says Haim Bibas, mayor of Modi’in-Maccabim-Re’ut and head of the Federation of Local Authorities. During the corona crisis, the Federation, the umbrella organization of the local municipalities in Israel, took a leading role in dealing with the pandemic daily. 

Recalling the early days of the crisis, Bibas says, “We quickly understood that the government was disconnected from the local municipalities and the citizens. The government didn’t understand exactly what to do and decided to deal with everything, but they quickly understood that the Federation of Local Authorities would not wait for them. We built situation rooms and control rooms – we did all that was needed to be done to deal with the citizens. There was no government budget at the time, and, after three elections, we were in a position of instability. The Federation of Local Authorities entered the picture, took charge, and played a central role.” 

The organization, says Bibas, provided solutions, from the return of students to schools in capsules to the reopening of businesses and halls. “Whenever the Ministry of Health tried to create its own decisions, there was opposition and public distrust. The Federation of Local Authorities knew how to put things together to provide logical and rational solutions that the public accepted.”

As a result of the organization’s efforts during the pandemic, Bibas says that the Federation of Local Authorities now has a strong and stable position in Israel’s leadership. “Today, there is nothing that the government does not do without our participation,” he says. “The government must work with us on issues of crime and violence because we know what needs to be done. They must provide the resources, but we are there to bring about the changes that are necessary.” Bibas himself is a member of the government’s Corona Cabinet and brings up important matters for discussion in that forum. There are 257 local municipalities in Israel, says Bibas, and 203 are members of the Federation of Local Authorities.

Beyond the corona crisis, Bibas says that the Federation of Local Authorities is actively involved in promoting innovation and making cities ‘smarter’ through the implementation of cyber defenses and remote monitoring of essential services such as public transportation and water systems. Bibas installed such a system in Modi’in-Maccabim-Re’ut, and plans on offering it to other municipalities, noting that it provides better service, is more economical and provides complete transparency to its citizens.

Ultimately, says Bibas, improving the educational system is the most important part of his work as head of the Federation of Local Authorities. “Education is the basis for the success of the cities and the country,” he says. No less critical, he says, is the need to ensure that teachers and other educational staff should have the best conditions. “We need to push more. We want the best in education, and we need to invest in it,” he says. He adds that the organization needs to provide more assistance for municipal councils in the periphery that have lower socio-economic conditions. “Our job is to make sure that the strong municipalities can advance, and weaker ones should push to get as many resources as they can. A boy in Bet Shean – which is where I was born – should get more resources than a child in Modi’in.”

What message does Haim Bibas want to communicate to Israel’s business leaders? “The Federation of Local Authorities has proven itself in the last two years, during the pandemic and when the national government was unstable,” says Bibas. “My message is that the Federation needs to have more authority and responsibility. If we receive more authority and responsibility, we will be able to lead more effectively. Let us do our work, regulate us, but allow us to work, because, in the end, we know how to work, and bring positive results to the State of Israel.” •

This article is taken from The Jerusalem Post Annual Executive Magazine 2021-2022. To read the entire magazine, click here.

This article was written in cooperation with Haim Bibas