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Maor, a professor of political science at the Hebrew University, attempts the by-no-means simple task of guiding a non-Israeli through the history and complexity of "public administration"—a polite term for Israel's political bureaucracy.

Israel's public sector is in many ways larger and more intrusive as compared with those in other modern countries. The problem is not simply a Scandinavian-style welfare state, for aside from income redistribution, the Scandinavian bureaucracy is relatively unobtrusive in the lives of citizens. In Israel, the bureaucracy intrudes in a far more aggressive manner in a far larger number of aspects of civic life. This is only in part a consequence of security problems.

The Maor anthology is only partly successful. Promising an analysis of Israeli public administration based on assorted theories, the volume is largely restricted to simple institutional description. And these descriptions suffer from a handicap specific to political science; there is no measurement of anything, and specifically, not of "power." Several authors fall into the pitfall of measuring the scope of power of an administrative body by the size of its budget or manpower. The book contains some duplication (such as the histories of the growth of the bureaucracies by both Aharon Kfir and Eva Etzioni-Halevy, or the descriptions of Israel's system of fiscal allotments). Chapters are glaringly lacking on such important matters as the tax system and the role of the bureaucracy in overseeing the construction sector.

The best chapters are those by Yoav Dotan (on Israel's judiciary) and Ira Sharkansky (on the "informal"—that is, unwritten—rules imposed by the political bureaucracy). Dotan gives the reader a brief introduction to Israel's imperious judiciary—out of control, self-perpetuating and non-democratic, operating largely on the basis of the anti-democratic doctrine of judicial "activism," which amounts to judicial non-accountability. He manages only to scratch the surface; Frank Cass might wish to devote an entire volume to this issue.

Sharkansky (and to a lesser extent Asher Friedberg in his chapter) discusses what Israelis understand only too well, but outsiders find surprising, namely, the wide gulf between formal laws and regulations and informal sets of rules, some arbitrary, imposed by the bureaucracies. It's fair to say that those "informal" rules constitute one of the more serious obstacles to daily life in Israel.

Maor's own piece on Israel's electricity monopoly is less satisfactory because he fails to explain many of the real issues involved, such as monopoly pricing and resource distortion, natural monopoly considerations, vertical monopoly issues, etc. Nor does he discuss the debate over the past decade or so over whether to "privatize" at the margin to allow outsourcing or purchase of power from private-sector providers. And he never even mentions the free electricity for electric company employees, for decades one of the more controversial and outrageous achievements of Israel's "public administration."