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Behind the Headlines Israelis Disenchanted with Govt. over Lack of Progress in Curing Domesticills

Almost every week a strike takes place in one of the vital public services. Every month the inflation increases in the order of 3-4 percent. In April it was 4.5 percent. Every day several brutal crimes are described in the newspapers. One day recently public attention was focused on the story of a young woman from Herzliya who for months was regularly raped and tortured by a gong of delinquents before she dared to inform the police.

These gloomy and frightening accounts are not unique to Israel: such phenomena are widespread in this brutal world. As a matter of fact, Israel is a relatively pleasant place to live, compared with the violence and turmoil prevalent nowadays in so much of the Western world. Nevertheless, a year after the Likud government took office, Israelis are wondering whether the new administration has made any serious effort to cope with the domestic problems reflected so graphically and dramatically in examples cited above. The answer is negative.

INFLATION STILL NO.1 PROBLEM

The Likud government has failed to cope effectively with the economic problems. Economists write about the improvement in the foreign currency balance and in foreign investments. But the ordinary citizen, in his daily life, feels only the galloping inflation which diminishes the value of the Israeli Pound. Due to the rapid rise of the cost of living, the situation in the labor market is one of permanent restlessness. Almost every day another group of workers decides to strike or “go slow” in order to get higher salaries.

The negative consequences of the inflation are not only economic. Its social and the moral results are even graver. As a result of the rising inflation, people reject established criteria by which to measure values and norms. A profound feeling of lack of stability prevails in many aspects of the national experience. Although both Likud and the Democratic Movement for Change (DMC) stressed in their election platforms the importance of bridging the social gaps, the government has not as yet made any mark in that field either. Meanwhile, inflation worsens the economic distress of the underprivileged classes.

Deputy Premier Yigael Yadin is in charge of directing national policy with regards to social affairs but nothing much seems to have changed in this field since the government was established. There is no improvement, either, in the government’s performance as a decision-making and executive body. The Cabinet is a collection of individuals whose main purpose is to promote their personal careers and the particular interests of the ministries they head. There is little solidarity within the Cabinet. Ministers quarrel among themselves and ministries compete with each other.

Lately the world witnessed bitter clashes between Defense Minister Ezer Weizman and Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan over peace policy. Some months ago, Weizman foiled Agriculture Minister Ariel Sharon’s plans to erect new settlements in Sinai and on the West Bank. The two Ministers-Without-Portfolio, Haim Landau and Moshe Nissim, failed in their efforts to wrest powers over subjects that are within the purview of other Cabinet members. Several ministries have been engaged in a public controversy over which of them evaded responsibility for the so-called “archaeological mission” at Shiloh.

PROMISED SHAKE-UP IN GOVT. STILL AWAITED

Minister of Housing Gideon Patt and Sharon cannot reach agreement on which of their ministries should control the lands Administration, a governmental agency which controls the State-owned lands. Likud ran in the elections on a platform that called for a major shake-up in the organizational structure of the government. In practice, however, only minor changes have taken place. The Ministry of Tourism was merged into the Ministry of Commerce and Industry; the Ministry of Labor was annexed to the Ministry of Welfare; the Ministry of Communications was combined with the Ministry of Transportation; and a Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure was formed. These changes were, in the main, formal and external. Six ministries are now administered by three ministers instead of by six as in the previous government. But nothing has really changed in the internal functioning of the six ministries.

Though they were transformed into three pairs of ministries the six departments continue to function separately. None of their myriad sections and sub-sections has been abolished. None of their employes was fired. Moreover, though a decrease in the number of ministries has indeed been effected, the number of Cabinet ministers is the same as in the previous government: 19. The same coalition considerations that dictated the number then still prevails now.

These phenomena have resulted in a steady deterioration of the government’s image and credibility. The public remembers the promises that inflation will be restrained; that law and order will be tightened; that a hard line will be adopted to quell strikes in vital services; that new methods and initiatives will be implemented to improve the conditions of the deprived classes; that a major change in the functioning of the government will be introduced. With every passing day public beliefs in the governments ability to do these things inevitably weakens.

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