Expanding the Number of Ministries Makes Israel Look Stupid

There are plenty of decent, logical, sensical, rational, good, perfect arguments to prevent the expansion of the Israeli government cabinet to include more ministers, deputy ministers and new ministries. Seriously, the list would be overwhelming. The best in my mind though would be an argument that undermines the reason this expansion is happening in the first place. Likud politicians want to advance their careers with prestigious titles on their Knesset resumes. Yet their resumes will not be helped by the bestowing of stupid, useless, redundant, absurd, fake ministries that are an even bigger waste of time for Israelis than they are a waste of money.

Department of Redundancy Department

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Being a minister means a salary raise – it’s a small one though about about $1,000 a month. Sure, that adds up. I could use a raise like that. But considering members of the Knesset already get about $9,000 a month anyway, it’s really a drop in the bucket no matter the economic class of the politician before he or she came to the Knesset.

No, it’s a matter of prestige. They want to be called “Minister.” Everyone wants to advance their careers. Everyone wants to be getting ahead. It is a constant race to seem useful and more productive than their competition inside the party. Even the 24th place member of Likud, Ayoub Kara, is “demanding” a minister’s job. Everyone is worried about their personal status.

But your personal status will be undermined by getting a ministry, because your demands for one will make you all look like selfish crybabies who have absolutely no interest in efficient government from the outset. It does not matter what your PR staff will tell the public you are doing in your ministry. You wasted people’s time on the job to blow their taxes on a new ministry whose job could have been done by an office inside a more established ministry. Take a look at some of the dumb ministries we have seen invented by Israeli governments in days past:

Minister of International Relations: This is NOT the Minister of Foreign Affairs. That is a different position, Yuval Steinitz was handed this ministry even though it actually doesn’t exist. He was also handed two other titles in the 2013 Israeli cabinet: Minister of Intelligence and Minister of Strategic Affairs. If both those titles sound like something a Colonel in the IDF or an important deputy in the Defense Ministry should be handling, that’s because they are. These are real offices, but they should be under the rubric of Defense who will better coordinate intelligence and strategy. Creating whole, new, SEPARATE ministries makes coordination a nightmare. At best they should be deputized minister positions. Yuval Steinitz is a major figure in Likud, but he could not have one of the three big ministries (Finance, Foreign Affairs, Defense), so he was given a redundant set of offices to make him feel better about it. In reality, it makes him look like an afterthought when he could have made a name for himself advancing legislation on important issues.

Minister of Economic Strategy: Again, this ministry does not exist. It was invented in 2009 and self-given to the Prime Minister-elect Benjamin Netanyahu. Besides being Prime Minister, Netanyahu gave himself this title plus Minister of Health and Minister of Pensioner Affairs. It was pointless, considering Netanyahu already had a say in economic strategy along with the Finance Minister and the Minister of Industry, Trade, and Labour (now the Economy Ministry, but same thing).

Minister of Intelligence and Atomic Energy: This is the Minister of Intelligence, mentioned above under Yuval Steinitz. The ministry was actually invented originally in 2009 for Dan Meridor. None of the country’s intelligence agencies answer to this minister, making the title ceremonial and a giant ego boost.

Minister without Portfolio: This is, or was, the granddaddy of nonsense. The entire point of this job was to give someone the title, salary and vote of a minister without actually giving them responsibilities. It was a total, undisputed waste of funds and unnecessarily incorporated more people into a giant, oversized cabinet. In 2009, this title was given to the likes of Benny BeginMeshulam Nahari and Yossi Peled. There were seven of these ministers in the 2006 government, including current Labor MK and lead critic of the new 2015 government’s spending, Eitan Cabel.

Home Front Defense Minister: This is actually the best example for the deputizing of ministries under larger ones. The job is actually a real one, but it was given its own ministry in 2011 despite the fact the person who got the title was doing this job as a Deputy Minister of Defense: Matan Vilnai. Netanyahu compared it to the creation of the Department of Homeland Security in the United States, but in this case there was not a year of debate before opening up the ministry. The ministry does not exist anymore, presumably because it does not make sense to take the responsibilities of the Defense Ministry and Public Security Ministry and hand them to another competitor.

Minister of Jerusalem Affairs: What the hell? Eli Suissa was given this title in 2001, although Jerusalem already has a mayor and actually conducts some of its own foreign affairs like other major cities do around the world. There was nothing this ministry could have done that the Interior Minister, Defense Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs was not already doing.

Minister of Regional Cooperation: This “ministry” is currently under the operation of Silvan Shalom, but was first invented in 1999 as a post for Shimon Peres. The ministry sounds like something that should be in the realm of Foreign Affairs and indeed it should. Minister for Israeli Arab Affairs: This one is a special kind of ridiculous, because it was managed by a Jew. But any use this role would have would be inside another ministry and only as a special appointment. Making someone a minister creates the illusion there is a need for a permanent, gigantic institution. There is no Department of African American Affairs in the United States. There is no Ministry of Roma in France. Perhaps minorities deserve some sort of effort, but certain minorities have gotten this patronizing treatment before and others have not. These are merely the redundant ministries in Israel.

Some of these should exist, but in the context of home front security, they should be sub-offices in bigger ministries. This brings us back to the issue of prestige. It is tied in with usefulness.

If you are given a ministry that has no purpose, what are you telling the electorate? You are not advancing your cause. Perhaps this brings up issues of seniority and fairness, but unfortunately for people like Yuval Steinitz and Silvan Shalom who have gone from central, major ministries to invented or redundant ones, they have to balance their own personal interests with the interests of their political party and the advancement of up-and-coming politicians. If the Israeli people need to soothe your ego in order for you to stay in office, you might need to accept you are doing more damage to your reputation by wasting people’s time and efficiency with these ministries.

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