The Problem With Israel

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I just got back from a lunchtime speech given by Gidi Grinstein, President of the Reut Institute (“an innovative policy group designed to provide real-time long-term strategic decision-support to the Government of Israel’).

Ostensibly, the topic of conversation was Israel-Diaspora relations, and while Grinstein suggested several new measures (most notably, asking American donors to demand transparency and strict managerial standards from the organizations and initiatives they support in Israel), his most interesting point — and the one he returned to over and over — had to do with the deleterious effects of Israel’s unstable goverments.

His point: To effect change in Israel there needs to be serious cross-party and cross-agency negotiations, but when governments are so short-lived this is impossible. How can we expect changes in the Israeli educational system, for example, when your average minister of education is only in the position for 15 months? Even if a study and proposal is brought to the legislature in record time, there will always be interests groups (unions, for example) who will want to squash the new initiative and can do so by holding out for the next government.

Grinstein also suggested that the instability of Israeli governments can explain some of the rampant corruption in Israeli politics. Because there can be new elections at almost any moment, politicians are forced to constantly fund-raise (because there might be a campaign to run tomorrow). Sometimes this leads politicians to push the envelope on financial legalities.

So of all things Grinstein spoke about, this was the clear message: Achieving a stable government needs to be Israel’s #1 priority. Serious political and social change in Israel is largely contingent upon this.

Posted on May 21, 2007

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