All problems solved with Halutz’ resignation?

January 17, 2007

Of all things, today’s resignation of Israel army’s chief of staff Dan Halutz and calls for resignation of prime minister Olmert and defense minister Peretz highlights defects in Israel’s government system.

Here in the US, “political appointee” is a negative term that is all but a synonym of “incompetence.” Yet in Israel, none but “political appointees” can sit in the cabinet and hold ministerial positions: cabinet portfolios are shared among the bosses of parties in the ruling coalition, whether they have the relevant professional qualifications and experience, or not.

This is how Mr. Peretz, the trade union leader, became Israel’s defense secretary: by refusing to join the coalition unless he is given the post. The choice between having new elections and having an incompetent defense minister was easy – and, not unnaturally, had pretty disastrous consequences.

Which, of course, does not excuse personal failures of Mr. Halutz, who, as a professional soldier, should have performed far better. But it would have been helpful if a competent defense secretary was there to counterbalance and correct Mr. Halutz’ faulty judgment.

I’ve said it before, and let me say it again: anarchy is not the best of political systems. Democracy, though imperfect too, is infinitely better.

The lesson of the Hezbullah war goes far beyond the few individuals on the top of Israeli political echelon; and unless Israelis start questioning the effectiveness of their political system, the key lesson of the war will not have been learned.

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