Defense Minister Benny Gantz: "Elections should be avoided, there should be a budget and a functioning government; I have no intention of replacing Avi Nissenkorn – he is doing a good job and we are committed to preserving democracy and judicial institutions."
Minister Ganz: "This country is not a grocery store – it is not run from moment to moment; I hope that, despite the tradition that I speak at the IDI Hurvitz Conference and then there is an election, the Prime Minister will change course and understand that going to the polls is not the right thing to do, but I am ready for any scenario; I give the government a good score in its handling of the corona crisis.”
Opposition Leader MK Yair Lapid: "This is not management, it is shoddy showmanship; the original sin is the impossible structure of this government; the government has lost public confidence; the relationship between the opposition and the coalition is wonderful compared to the relationships within the coalition itself."
Regarding the appointment of the new police commissioner, Lapid said: "This is the method of the court of Bibi – throwing an appointment into the air an hour after Shasha-Bitton announced that she was joining Saar in order to change the topic of conversation."
Yossi Kuchik, former director general of the Prime Minister's Office, replies to Gantz: "This crisis is the biggest failure in Israel's history, competing with the failure of the Yom Kippur War. Usually there is a learning curve; here there is a downward curve. Nothing is learned: no administrative system or chain of command."
As part of IDI’s Eli Hurvitz Conference on Economics and Society, a panel was held on December 16 with the participation of Defense Minister and Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz and a number of experts in public administration and policy, dealing with the crisis of confidence in the Israeli government and the lessons learned. Chair of the panel was Yohanan Plesner, president of the Israel Democracy Institute.
Defense Minister and Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz: “There is no doubt that we are facing the greatest global health crisis we have faced in the last century and the most severe economic crisis we have known in Israel in recent decades. I tried to bring this crisis to an end when I joined the government.
Economic development depends on certainty and on operational economic plans including a clear and stable economic horizon. A budget should have been passed long ago and long-term economic plans should have been made. Now, with the advent of vaccines and a more "normal" health situation on the horizon, we must engage in strengthening the Israeli economy and society and improving employment productivity in Israel. These are the main issues. I hope that by the end of 2021 we will be able to return to a low single-digit unemployment rate.
We need to secure a safety net for our industries, get people back to work, and take advantage of the recovery time by improving infrastructure in areas like tourism and education that are currently working at low intensity.
We came out with training programs, but we did too little too late, and the unemployment model is also unsatisfactory: one should work through the employers and not through the employees, who are offered programs that encourage them not to work. We should end the special corona budgets and, in places where they must be used, clear rules should be put in place for how.
Despite the new tradition that after I speak at the Hurvitz Conference we have national elections, I think it is possible to pass a budget in a short time that will support infrastructure and the periphery and avoid new elections. Tens of billions need to be put in place to improve productivity and restore employment. The only question is whether these things will happen now or whether we will have to go through another round or two of elections and have the public pay a high price. I give the government a high score for its work on security and on its handling of the coronavirus crisis; all in all, we found the balance between the national crisis and the preservation of democracy. An orderly COVID cabinet was set up and we used the capabilities of the defense system to help in dealing with the crisis. I hope that with time the political and sectoral side of the issue will blur and we will begin to deal with COVID-19 itself without the political and social components that exist in the Israeli reality.
Elections must be avoided and there must be a budget and a functioning government. I will continue to fight for these things. I hope the Prime Minister changes course and understands that going to the polls is not the right thing to do, but I am of course prepared for any other scenario. A country is not a grocery store – it is not run from moment to moment.”
Asked by IDI President Yohanan Plesner whether he would consider replacing Minister Avi Nissenkorn, Ganz replied: "I have no intention of replacing Nissenkorn – he is doing a very good job in the Ministry of Justice. We are committed to preserving democracy and legal institutions."
Yossi Kuchik, Entrepreneurship and Management Ltd., former director general of the Prime Minister's Office: “I heard the Minister of Defense say that this country is not a grocery store. I don't think there is a single grocery store in Israel that is run worse than the State of Israel. This failure competes solely with the failure of the Yom Kippur War. There is no proper management, no chain of command. The political system is squabbling, and it obscures everything that happens. Why, for God's sake, is there no unified management system? When you analyze what has happened in the last year, I see the Minister of Defense and ask myself: Does he not see where he is living? Does he not see the failures? The COVID project manager is nothing with nothing. They are not responsible for anything, they have no powers. This is a small corner trying to coordinate and integrate everything, and I think it is one big failure….
We are entering a crisis with a broken administrative system. Even before COVID and the great recession, we knew the system was broken and difficult things were happening in it, so expecting it to deal with such a crisis is unrealistic and thinking it can self-examine is not possible. Is not functioning at the moment. Anyone sitting here could build a different system; the system had to formulate its professional opinions and think about the operativeness. It was supposed to raise the total number of decisions to the political level. What is happening here is a disgrace. This policy has created one million unemployed. There needs to be a national advocacy team, separate task forces, and a "thinking" department. It is easy to build and difficult to manage, but when the system is unified, it will be possible.
MK Yair Lapid, leader of the opposition and chair of Yesh Atid: “Israel is an island country. The airport can be closed and the crisis managed in a controlled manner. Compared to this type of country, according to current data, New Zealand has 25 dead, Singapore 29, Taiwan 9, and in Israel 3004. In all these countries the economic situation is better, the deficit is lower, there is a budget and fewer businesses were closed; 80,000 businesses closed in Israel this year. That the government is assembled and the way this Prime Minister is conducting it – it is not management, it is shoddy showmanship….
In the first lockdown, Israelis were disciplined. The first to violate it were the people who call themselves the "leadership." The government lost public trust because the government is untrustworthy. We were a very responsible opposition. We approved things that no other political opposition would approve. We tried to unite during the crisis but realized there was no one to unite with. The relationship between the opposition and the coalition is wonderful compared to the relationships within the coalition itself.
Regarding the appointment of the new police commissioner, Lapid said: “I need to examine this appointment; it only came up yesterday. This is the method of the court of Bibi – throwing an appointment into the air an hour after Shasha-Bitton announced she was joining Saar in order to change the topic of conversation. There is no doubt that Israel needs a police commissioner.
The Eli Hurvitz Conference on Economy and Society – formerly the Caesarea Economic Policy Planning Forum – is widely recognized as Israel's most influential economic conference. For 27 years, the conference has served as a crossroads where public discourse and professional knowledge in economics and society meet, with the aim of improving decision-making processes in the administration and improving the quality of Israel's social and economic policy for the benefit of the entire public. The conference this year focuses on: macroeconomic policy in times of economic crisis; the labor market; the Israeli education system; governance in a time of crisis; strengthening the health system's readiness for crisis situations; and the relationship between local and central government. The conference is the apex of research and theoretical and practical research by working and thinking groups comprised of senior officials in the Ministry of Economy, Ministry of Labor, Ministry of Finance, the Prime Minister's Office, academics, IDI experts, civil society representatives, and other partners. Together, the teams led research and developed policy recommendations on issues closely related to the conference sessions, which will be presented during the conference, held online this year from December 14 to December 16.