Item One: As a business mentor, I try to encourage my clients to take responsibility for their decisions. My aim is that they should realise how any strategy has consequences, which need to be explored thoroughly in advance.
Item Two: The popular television programme of the 1980s, “Yes, Prime Minister”, wonderfully satirised the notions of citizens around the world. If a government minister makes a mistake, he will never own up to it.
Item Three: The ombudsman in Israel has released two reports in June. The first slams the Prime Minister for his conduct of a sensitive military operation. The second effectively censures the Finance Minister (Steinitz) and the Interior Minister (Yisha’i) for their management of the fire brigade service, following the deaths of 44 people in an inferno 18 months ago.
Let me concentrate on the latter incident, where the ombudsman feels that the two members of cabinet had a “special responsibility” for ensuring that the fire service had sufficient equipment and training.
In response, everyone accepts that this failing can be laid at the hands of several governments, going back possibly twenty or more years. Specifically, Steinitz argues that he was in favour of granting significantly higher allocations, but had demanded a programme of reform, which was never offered. Yisha’i contends that he had complained repeatedly about the lack or resources, but nobody listened.
I am sure that they are both correct. And I agree with Steinitz, when he also says that he cannot be held responsible for a second minister’s problems, everytime he has not been able to allocate better budgets. After all, next people will blame him for deaths in hospitals.
However, when I don my hat as a mentor, both men come up very short, although for different reasons.
Steinitz wanted to hear of detailed reforms before signing a large cheque. Good for him. Nothing is free in life. However, he has a duty to understand that if a situation is so dire, especially when dealing with a subject that can involve life-and-death, then greater flexibility is demanded.
This is a classic case of trying to turn a situation in to ”black or white”, when we know that life is full of compromises. Could Steinitz not have released some initial funds? Steinitz and his team failed to take that wider and more responsible approach.
As for Yisha’i, that he failed to convince the money men to hand out the cash does not mean that he should be censured. However, he is known as one who understands how to secure finance for his political party’s favourite projects. And on the weekend on the fire itself, he is reported to have spent the Sabbath safe with his family in Jerusalem, while his teams were operating flat out in the north of the country. Where was his leadership, and with that comes responsibility?
Bottom line? The ombudsman is correct when he says that government ministers should take a more professional approach. May he and his successor continue to broadcast that message. However, it is a message that he has failed to apply to his own office, which criticised two experienced politicians for the wrong reasons.
As in “Yes Prime Minister”, Steinitz and Yisha’i will shift the blame and life will carry on as normal….except for the families of 44 people.