Public Policy in Israel
Edited by David Nachmias and Gila Menahem. London:Frank Cass, 2002. 280 pp. $59.50 ($26.50, paper).
Reviewed by Steven Plaut
University of Haifa
Middle East Quarterly
Domestic public policy analysis in Israel is a long-neglected field, in part because Israel is nearly a one-issue country, dominated by the Arab-Israeli conflict. Also, Israeli politicians know everything and have little reason to consult policy experts or academic analysts. And policy analysis is a largely overlooked field in the country's universities. Therefore, the most important contribution of Public Policy in Israel may be to refocus the public spotlight on Israeli domestic issues.
The book surveys a wide variety of policy issues in political science and law; glaringly missing, however, is the whole realm of economics. The quality of the work varies. An interesting contribution on grassroots neighborhood activism by Shlomo Hassan is somewhat dated, missing how this interesting phenomenon has grown, especially in Haifa. Naomi Carmon writes a fine survey on housing policy. A short survey on the transportation system succeeds in avoiding the common pitfall in Israel of presuming that trains are a panacea. The chapter on hospital privatization or corporatization surveys the debate over decentralization in Israel's health system and is well written if incomplete.
Other pieces might better have been left out. A long piece on the school system manages to fill up many pages with cliches and rhetoric but overlooks the important issues in education policy, such as school choice and vouchers. The piece on gender equality is written by a law professor and is completely devoid of social science or an understanding of gender equality issues outside the courtroom. A piece on water policy by co-editor Menahem reads like journalism, as she never quite gets around to explaining the nucleus of the problem—namely, gross mis-pricing and mis-allocation through politicized bureaucratic command-and-control mechanisms, dominated by special interests. Arik Carmon, president of the Israel Democracy Institute (IDI) writes an analysis of his own institution, which amounts to an unpaid advertisement for it (and never mentions, of course, that the IDI is left wing, with close ties to the Israeli Labor Party). At the least, think tanks from the center and right should have been offered equal time.
Related Topics: Israel & Zionism | Steven Plaut | Fall 2002 MEQ
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