• Live
  • Participation by invitation only

Senior Civil Service Appointments

Recently, Knesset members and ministers have raised a number of initiatives to change the nature of appointing senior officials in the public service by giving more authority to politicians on the grounds that this will improve "governance." Proposals include: reducing the amount of search committees for senior officials; adding deputy directors general to government ministries; removing the restrictions on the appointment of ministers and former mayors to directors of government companies and changing the procedure for appointing legal advisors so as to transform it into an appointment made by ministers, not the Civi Service Commissioner.

Such changes if implemented could have a far-reaching impact on public service .

In order to understand the issue and its significance, a round table will be held at the Israel Democracy Institute with the participation of experts from the Knesset, public sector and the academic community. The discussion will be moderated by  journalist Dafna Liel.

On Sunday, July 30, the directors general of the Justice and Health Ministries, Emi Palmor and Moshe Bar Siman Tov, expressed their support for the legislative initiative led by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, which seeks to increase the influence of politicians over the civil service, particularly with regard to professional appointments.

IDI convened a special discussion to analyze the initiatives designed to increase political appointments in the civil service, including the "Jobs for the Boys Law, "Legal Advisors Law," changing the composition of Knesset search committees and adding a deputy director general to each government ministry.

The conference featured directors general from several ministries, the director of the Government Companies Authority, Knesset members and experts.

Below, are some highlights from the discussion:

Yohanan Plesner, President of the Israel Democracy Institute, said: "The combination of more political appointments and political instability will create a chaotic government. We must increase flexibility, implement civil service reform and fix our system of government so that ministers can really work."

Tomer Lotan, Director-General of the Center of Citizen Empowerment: "Recently, we have been waking up every morning just trying to ebb the tide against the government in this area of politicizing the civil service. The whole story of governance is posed as a question as to whether it is possible to appoint one person or another to assist the minister. This misses the point. The deep-seated problems of the civil service must be dealt with. "

Moshe Dayan, Former Civil Service Commissioner: "It's true that there is a problem of governance, but it has nothing to do with the issue of appointments. The initiatives on the agenda are dangerous.  As someone who has witnessed the way things are run at the highest political echelons, I can say that the proposed changes are not appropriate for our political culture. A model in which the political class essentially tutors the professional class is terrible. The heart of the matter is maintaining professional appointments. "

Ori Yogev, Director of the Government Companies Authority: "Unlike the civil service, government companies have been characterized by many political appointments in the past, from drivers up to the board of directors. Now, they are trying to use the concept of better governance to justify political appointments.  There is no country, including the United States, where a minister has the power to appoint people to work in government companies. Such scenarios only exist in the Third World. "

MK Yael German, Former Health Minister: "It is impossible to ignore the fact that because of chronic government instability, every minister wants to implement his agenda. When I initiated Health Ministry reforms in insurance, for example, almost every functionary could have tripped me up, knowing that I would not stay in the job long. The recent initiatives will result in politicians looking out for their own interests - and open the door for other politicians to sneak in."

Adv. Emi Palmor, Director General of the Justice Ministry, said: "There is no problem with reducing the number of professionals who are represented on the screening committees. What we have here is 'demagoguery over politicization,' since in any case the job criteria promote unqualified candidates. A director wants the most qualified professional by his side. "

MK Roy Folkman, Chairman of the Kulanu Party, said: "There is a tension between the ethos of public service that's based on duty to the citizenry and the political echelon that wants to implement.  A conservative approach has developed whereby no one should intervene – not the media, not the courts and not the professional class. While I support the strengthening of our citizens' representatives in government, the line between being overly legalistic and cronyism is blurry and this has characterized every ruling party for years. It is always good for those who are in power to have the ability to challenge the gatekeepers. However, especially during this period of investigations, gatekeepers must remain untouched. It is outrageous that a Likud MK would speak out in favor of having a minister appoint a legal advisor. Such statements are patently absurd."

Moshe Bar Siman Tov, Director General of the Health Ministry: "What we see is a reaction to a situation in which there is uncertainty about the length of a minister's term and most people want to leave a mark. Battling with gatekeepers can take a year or two and therefore we must make a change so as to implement better policies. Changing the composition of the screening committees will not harm the quality of the people who join the civil service. "

Adv. Mike Blass, Former Deputy Attorney General: "There is a problem of governance, but it is backwards.  Clerks must constantly adapt to the new policies of incoming ministers. In addition, the ministers find it difficult to manage officials who have their own agendas. I am not talking about Shaked's formula that would create political appointments for seven years that will enable a minister to appoint a legal adviser as a loyal public servant who will remain even when a new minister is appointed. "

Rachel Edri, CEO of Ma'as: "We are experiencing an attack, as if officials are the enemies of government ministries. This is a distorted perception. Those who want to govern should not appoint unqualified people. "

Motti Shapira, Researcher at the Israel Democracy Institute: "Studies we have conducted at the Israel Democracy Institute show that we are only successful with regards to government companies, while the rest of the country's civil services are declining in the international indices."

Ron Dole, Legal Advisor to the Civil Service Commissioner updated conference participants, announcing that the service committee is due to convene in August and discuss some of the proposals.

The discussion was moderated by Dafna Liel, Knesset correspondent for Channel 2 News.

Racheli Edri-Hulta, CEO of Ma'as

MK Amir Ohana, Likud

Adv. Mike Blass, Former Deputy Attorney General

Moshe Bar Siman Tov, Director General of the Health Ministry

MK Yael German, Yesh Atid

Adv. Moshe Dayan, Former Civil Service Commissioner

Prof. Eran Vigoda-Gadot, University of Haifa

Ori Yogev, Director of the Government Companies Authority

Tomer Lotan, Director General of the Center of Citizen Empowerment

Dr. Guy Luria, The Israel Democracy Institute

MK Roy Folkman, Kulanu

Adv. Emi Palmor, Director General of the Justice Ministry

Yohanan Plesner, President of the Israel Democracy Institute

Motti Shapira, The Israel Democracy Institute