Jobs Bill Breaks Up Cabinet Meeting

YERUSHALAYIM -
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting, Sunday. (Amit Shabi/POOL)

An attempt to expedite a bill to authorize ministers to appoint deputies directly without tenders was derailed in the weekly cabinet meeting when the ministers reached stalemate, and a vote postponed until after the chagim, Ynet reported on Monday.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had wanted to fast-track what has been derisively called the “jobs bill” by presenting it to the cabinet for “executive vote” rather than going through the normal legislative procedure in the Knesset.

“You’ve been the prime minister since 2009, and nothing has been done so far. We’re the first to actually do something about this,” Minister of Justice Ayelet Shaked (Jewish Home), a co-sponsor of the bill, reportedly told Netanyahu prior to the debate.

“The civil service is there to implement the decisions, but we have to let government ministers carry out the policies for which they were elected,” said Netanyahu, arguing for the bill, which he argued would allow ministers to choose the personnel they feel would be best for the job.

“The guidance has to come down from the political ranks. What we have here is the very least. When people talk about politicization, they have no idea what they’re talking about,” Netanyahu insisted. It was also pointed out that the tenders process and search committees are not immune to political motivations.

Netanyahu’s Likud party wasn’t behind him on it, either. About half of the Likud ministers opposed the proposal, some saying that, on the contrary, it would make it even harder for them to appoint a deputy director-general.

“This proposal is the joke of the year,” Minister Gila Gamliel (Likud) remarked.

“Call me when one person gets selected. It was my understanding that we’re doing the appointing, so let’s appoint,” quipped Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon (Kulanu).

The bill’s other co-sponsor, Tourism Minister Yariv Levin (Likud), expressed his frustration at the government’s failure to pass the measure:

“The opposition of some of the cabinet to the proposal today struck down a historic change in the appointment process for high-ranking civil service positions. In so doing, an opportunity was missed that may not return again to significantly strengthen ministers’ ability to ensure worthy appointments of people committed to their policy,” he said.

“Those objecting to this decision are personally responsible for the continued state of deficient governance, the inability to implement ministerial policy and a prolonged, severe detriment to the government’s affairs,” Levin added.

The major objection to the bill has been concern that it will provide more opportunities for political patronage, rather than improve the efficiency of ministries.

Addressing the issue, the Ministry of Justice’s legal adviser Attorney Lea Rakover said:

“In light of the marked differences between the political and professional ranks —appointed by tender and freed of political influences — exempting a position from tenders, especially any full exemptions, would be suspected to be an attempt to leverage said position for political appointments.

“Moving to appointing deputy directors-general by political appointment tramples the prospect of promotion for the outstanding civil servants who dedicate their lives to the civil service and are certainly worthy of moving up in their fields,” the legal adviser concluded.