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Israel’s idealism often overwhelms its governmental delivery system

By Ira Sharkansky

Ira Sharkansky

JERUSALEM — Israel is too small and too poor for the demands that it lays upon itself, and are imposed by the world.

My favorite newspaper photo of the day shows a file room at a court house. It came with a story about a plaintiff’s case of medical malpractice that failed on account of a lost file. We see in the picture what we  know about government offices, hospitals and other public facilities. There is too much to do in order to assure proper treatment. 
 
Just last evening on our walk around French Hill we encountered a problem that might have justified a call to the police, but where the prospect of quick service versus the severity of the problem deterred us from making the call.

We passed by a group of Arabs dressed as if they had come from a family feast to celebrate the end of a daily Ramadan fast. Suddenly a boy of about 14 jumped, yelled, smacked his hand against a parked car, and swaggered off as if he had rendered appropriate damage to a Jew’s property.

Call the cops and point out the vandal? Last time we called the police was a more serious event of an Arab assaulting a young woman. At that time our first call to the emergency number broke off in the midst of our report. When we did make contact, it took 10 minutes for the first patrol car to arrive. This in a neighborhood bordering an Arab community with a high incidence of minor and not so minor incidents.

So last night we continued on our walk, frustrated at the system and angry at ourselves for choosing the easy over what might have been the appropriate decision.

Another case: the Supreme Court has ordered the government to reconsider the appointment of a woman to the commission investigating the seizure of the Turkish flotilla.

What to do? The law requires that such bodies include a woman, but the Court made its decision after the commission had already heard what are likely to be the most important witnesses from the government and the military.

The entire investigation is a farce. So what that nine fighters (terrorists, if you will) were killed in a military operation? How many operations of American and NATO forces have caused as many casualties in the area from Iraq eastward without provoking the United Nations and pressuring the soldiers’ home country to conduct a public investigation?

Another case: Ha’aretz is exposing that several thousand illegals from Africa have been held in detention longer than the period of time allowed by law before their cases are settled. Many of these individuals have no documents and come from countries without functioning governments. But a judge may look at the law, and order that individuals held too long be let out on the street. The individuals waiting for such a determination look something like those files pictured above: too many to deal with according to requirements.

Who’s responsible? Both Israelis and the world. Seekers of justice work to impose whatever regulations they pick up from elsewhere in order to make things better here. The people making the demands are  Israelis and Jews feeling that Israel must be at least as good as other countries.

Then there is the world, always on edge in search of a new accusation that can be made against Israel.

Remember those 400 children of illegal immigrants ordered deported. There are daily articles describing citizen and overseas activists–from Eilie Wiesel downward–concerned that Israel might despoil itself by expelling children who should not be here.

None of these are bad ideas, but Israel does not have the population or resources of all those countries serving as models of public policy. And the resources that it does have are allocated more than elsewhere to defense. Staying alive comes at the cost of an ideal public administration or an environment as clean as that of Germany.
Overall, the country does not do badly with what it has. Its health and welfare, the incidence of violent crime, and the safety of its prisons look better than in the United States, but that is an easy standard of comparison. There is no other country where all of the universities are on the Chinese list of the 500 best in the world.

Thinking about making it better, I return to those moments last evening when I considered calling the cops against that teenager from Isaweea. Most likely the police had more serious things to do. One of my neighbors has a dented car, and an Arab is feeling good that he did something to the Jews. I am angry at myself, but would have been even angrier if the call to the police did not go through, if the patrol car came too late, or was met by women screaming about a racist Jew who had summoned the police for no reason about a well behaved boy.

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Sharkansky is professor emeritus of political science at Hebrew University

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