“We are fed up!” is a sentence that has been heard many times from many Israelis. However, as time is passing, it seems that the management of the country is getting worse. Economic leaders, who are used to effective methods of management, require stability and continuity, and they believe that the chronic political upheavals are a danger to Israel’s impressive economic achievements. For that reason, unlike their usual tendency to stay away from politically connected initiatives, now they are supporting electoral and government changes. This past week, businessmen Nochi Dankner, Dan Propper and Gazi Kaplan have joined the long-standing Forum that is addressing finding alternatives to the current government system. The new members are uniting their efforts with veteran Forum members Avaraham Bigger, Yehudit Bronicki, Amos Shapira, Michael Strauss and many others.
For the last 8 years, “The Forum for Government Stability in Israel” – a non-political initiative founded by Izak Nazarian – has been promoting electoral change to strengthen the government and achieve greater stability and continuity, in order to effectively implement long-term planning. Israel’s chronic government instability and concern for the future has prompted great enthusiasm within the Forum. The country has undergone so many changes that it’s hard to remember, at any given moment, the name of the Minister of Infrastructure, the Minister of Education, or the Minister of Communication.
Michael Strauss, one of the owners of Strauss Group, understood that the government system must be changed when he saw how education reforms were dropped. His interest, he maintains, is not connected to business. “I think that a captain needs to manage the ship, and he needs to take good officers. Otherwise, he will not get anywhere.”
Amos Shapira, the Executive Director of Cellcom, emphasized that the current government management style is weak. Shapira is cautious not to give the impression that businessmen want to replace politicians. “I have no political aspirations to join the movement to change the government system. I believe that the need to change the government is apolitical. There is wide agreement that something is not functioning. The current system does not allow any leader, no matter who is in power, to effectively manage the country.
When I look at Israel’s political leaders, ‘across the board’ and compare them to leaders from other Western countries, I do not feel any inferiority. I don’t think we need to be ashamed. No one is perfect. It is true that Israel’s challenges are more complicated, but we have skilled people to handle the challenges.”
“The politicians change frequently,” Shapira added. “How can you work with such a rapid exchange of leaders? Don’t focus on the Prime Ministers who cannot finish their terms, look at the Ministers.
Avraham Bigger, Chairman of Makhteshim Agan, is worried about the lack of consistency he sees in the management of the government. “There is no continuity or long-term focus on issues. ‘Zigzagging’ is very bad for management. You need to mark a ‘North Star’ and walk to this light with the least amount of deviation as possible. Movements forward, back, and to the side don’t help the country achieve its goals. We need to manage differently. Israel is a first-class country. There are amazing people, initiators, and a great amount of brainpower per capita. We need to stick to long-term goals to get better results.”
Professor Gideon Doron stated that he is not only concerned with government instability, but also with one of its ramifications, which is the danger that we will lose our democracy. “We are the only country in the world, except Slovakia, which has an election system where the whole country is one proportional region in the elections.”
Big Business vs. Government
There are good people with good intentions, but it is natural to have concerns about possible hidden agendas when business people push for government reform which would benefit them. Michael Strauss is offended by this. “I am so sad. I don’t have a personal agenda, but I am offended every time this concern arises. Why write about me and defame me? It is terrible when you defame people who are doing good things. It is probably better to stand on the sidelines so people will not defame you. It hurts when people behave in this way, especially when one employs thousands of people, and yet you are criticized from morning to night.”
Avraham Bigger is not concerned about this issue. “To a great extent, big business vs. government is just a phrase. I don’t think there is a place in the world, where senior businessmen don’t talk with political authorities. It happens in every country of the world. We are just a small country where everything is magnified. There are good-willed people who want to dedicate their time and experience. We don’t come from a place of hidden agendas, but we feel that we need to act so Israel will be a better place.
Offer Peri, the Executive Director of 012 Smile, is one of the supporters of the Forum for Government Stability. “The government’s main problem is not the risk of losing our democracy, it is the lack of the ability to make effective decisions. That is why I would prefer to examine the possibility of some kind of a presidential system. The State of Israel has huge potential to be one of the richest countries in the world. I don’t say this from my business perspective, but from being an Israeli citizen – the Israeli system of government is one of the major obstacles preventing the country from reaching this potential.”
The Vision of Nazarian
This week, the Forum for Government Stability received renewed attention regarding its ongoing initiatives due to the support of newly joined economic leaders. The Forum was established by Izak Nazarian and spearheaded by his apolitical organization, The Citizens’ Empowerment Center in Israel (CECI) which promotes government stability and education of democracy, leadership, and good citizenship.
In an interview with “Globes”, Nazarian displayed a sound understanding of Israel’s current political troubles, despite the fact that he hasn’t lived in Israel for many years. He is grieved by the gap between what Israel is and what it could be with better professional management. Nazarian is very dedicated to the vision of changing the government system. “I have the honor to say I am an Israeli, and I am very proud that I am a part of the Jewish nation. I have learned much from what I’ve studied here and what I have seen in America.”
How much more successful would we be, if we were managed more effectively?
“We want to ensure that there will be fewer changes in the government. We want a more stable government. A Minister in Israel needs to serve his full term of 4 years so he has time to do his work. There have been a great number of Minister changes throughout the years. This instability damages Israel’s economic relationships.”
The Executive Director of CECI and the Forum for Government Stability, Yuval Lipkin, clearly defines Nazarian’s vision, “The governance problem is an existential problem. The lack of ability to build roads, to solve health problems, to adapt to modern approaches in company management, etc. heavily costs Israeli citizens and gives the impression that society is rapidly going downhill, if it has not already crashed.
The daughter of Nazarian, Dora Kadisha, is also very active in Nazarian’s vision. “The question is how to enable the Ministers and Prime Minister to work more effectively. We see the problem in lack of planning for the water shortage in Israel, the Carmel fire, and peace initiatives, We suffer from lack of government stability no matter who is the Prime Minister”.
For Nazarian, the main message is to adopt other systems of management which will allow “sowing and reaping”. Kadisha commented, “How can a Minister initiate a vision or idea and start to plan, when we know that immediately after him, another person will come along with different ideas? The same is true with education. There have been 6 Ministers of Education during the last 10 years, as well as 10 Ministers of Infrastructure. We can only imagine how much more successful Israel would be – Israel would be among the most successful countries in the world – if we were managed more effectively.”
Written By — Ami Brand, Ella Levi-Vinriv and Einav Ben Yehuda
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