How to Rebuild the

Public Service

October 6, Simchat Torah eve

  1. The disintegration of the professional civil service model: The role of the civil service is to make sure that decisions are made, funds are allocated, work plans are implemented and citizens receive services. Civil service has transformed from a professional service with a statist ethos, to one based on loyalty, partisanship and sectorialism: political appointees lack professional competencies; placeholder appointees create perpetual dependence in the political ranks; and important senior positions are left unfilled. This has also led to significantly reduced enrollment in the Civil Service Cadets and Atudot LeIsrael programs.
  2. Structural disintegration of government ministries: The multiplicity of ministers in recent governments has led to the breakdown of government ministries and to the shifting of governmental units in a way that creates duplicate positions and a lack of accountability. The result has been waste, inefficiency and tremendous damage to services.
  3. Disabling the mechanisms of government oversight: The mechanisms of democratic oversight and supervision have become increasingly eroded. The Knesset is weakened and filled with “Norwegian Law” MKs who are subordinate to the government; the “gatekeepers” (the civil service commissioner, attorney general, budgets supervisor and accountant general) are on the defensive; the state comptroller is willfully prevented from addressing failures; the legal system is under attack and being emptied of judges; and journalism, the watchdog of democracy, is perceived as partisan and untrustworthy.
  4. Erosion of public services: Decades of dried-up budgets and structural neglect have damaged all public systems — military, education, health care, welfare and police. Meanwhile, the national ethos of individuals contributing to society has been abandoned and replaced by one of self-actualization and making a profit. These and other factors contributed to extensive damage to the systems essential to the existence of society and the state, emptying them of high-quality human resources.
  5. A country without a vision or a plan: The repeated elections and the need for short-term gains have created a reactive political and government system that creates processes with short-sighted achievements. National bodies and units established with long-term visions are not being operated in practice. Complex challenges facing the country, such as personal security, population density, transportation and housing, are being left by the wayside as a consequence.
  6. Misuse of the government budget: The government budget, the main professional mechanism for running the country, is managed irresponsibly with unrealistic assumptions, narrow political considerations, and extremist sectoral aspirations. 

October 8

In recent years we began to see the deterioration of public service, and we could have pointed out its problems, but we still did not understand the enormity of the price we would pay in a true emergency situation. On October 7, we experienced a massive event that resulted in thousands of victims, hundreds of thousands of displaced persons, many people laid off, businesses and entire industries frozen, schools unable to open, agriculture without any working hands, and an irrelevant government budget. 

Even a country with an excellent public service system would have struggled to handle an event of this scale. All the more so a country with a weak, centralized and ineffective public service. Civil society and local governments have mobilized in an awe-inspiring manner, but they do not and must not replace the government.

How to Rebuild Public Service

  1. The number of government ministries should be significantly reduced: This number will be set out in law with a rigid change clause based on professional need and not by political considerations, and should not include pointless ministries (e.g., the Ministry of Public Diplomacy), overlapping ministries (e.g., the Ministry of Jerusalem Affairs and Heritage and the Ministry of Heritage) and task force ministries (e.g., the Ministry for Community Empowerment and Advancement). Government ministries should be determined in a structure that allows uninterrupted and effective work while consolidating positions and establishing a clear and direct allocation of authority and responsibility. This structure should be anchored in legislation, but no less important is that it be part of a public trust-building process.
  2. Reform in the Civil Service Commission: Legislating a Civil Service Law, which will decentralize the authority to manage human resources for the government ministries and simultaneously increase the Civil Service Commission and other gatekeepers’ power of oversight over inappropriate appointments. The civil service model should be adapted to the characteristics of today’s generation, who do not seek lifetime tenure but rather engagement, impact and movement between sectors. This reform will allow us to renew the ethos and sense of calling to serving Israeli society in the state institutions or systems of public service. 
  3. Establishing a governmental strategic planning body: A national council for strategic planning should be established, made up of a team from public, private and third sectors, in the spirit of the National Council for Research and Development Law. The council will issue long-term strategic recommendations and submit them to the government for approval. These recommendations will have a dedicated and secure five-year budget (set in advance as a percentage of the total budget). To implement the recommendations, an efficient and effective government mechanism will be established with unique abilities: flexible budgetary powers, a fast track for tenders, acquisitions for long-term projects, a dedicated process for fast human-resource recruitment and employment, and more.
  4. Establishing a government budget that encourages cohesion: The government budget is the main tool for advancing statism, equality and growth. While the current model is based on tribalism and sectorialism, the new model should prioritize Israel-wide budgeting over sectoral budgeting, significantly reducing coalitional funds while adding them to a base budget in a fair and egalitarian manner. The differences between groups should be addressed by expanding local governments’ budget flexibility.
  5. Significant changes in budget priorities: Alongside the need to increase the defense budget, there is a need to increase growth-oriented public spending (transport infrastructure, internet, education, research and technology etc.) while significantly streamlining government activity and slashing transfer payments that do not encourage employment and growth. Investment should be increased in recruiting and incentivizing high-quality human resources for public services such as education, law enforcement, welfare, health care and mental health services, subject to significant streamlining reforms.
  6. The new 50:30:20 system: The new 50:30:20 operating system is based on an approach in which authority, content, budgeting mechanisms, and decision-making in all areas will be 50% allocated to the national level; 30% to the local level; and 20% to the community level. This system makes it possible to transfer significant parts of the management of citizens’ lives into their own hands, emphasizing local government as well as developing and cultivating organized communities in which citizens can demonstrate engagement and take responsibility (see more details in a separate section on the final page of this document).