Key Challenges

Weak strategic capacities; balance between flexibility and planning needed
Israel has a long and deeply rooted history of policymaking improvisation (Sharkansky and Zalmanovitch 2000). Indeed, improvisation, in contrast to planning, is one of the main characters of its policy style. Regarding long-term processes and strategic planning, Israel usually shows weak policy performance. The above mindset implies some major strengths and weaknesses in times of crisis. On the one hand, it allows for quick and flexible policy responses, without being dependent on “heavy” and long bureaucratic procedures and mechanisms. On the other hand, it is usually characterized by a lack of pre-designed, comprehensive and integrated inter-sectoral planning, and effective and sophisticated executive mechanisms, which could be utilized and adequately adapted during large-scale crises. Strategically thinking, it seems a more effective balance needs to be found between creativity/flexibility and thorough preparation. Therefore, special attention should be paid to the design and development of national inter-sectoral bodies, which can strategically handle large-scale crises and emergencies in the future.
Reliance on military
during pandemic
In this respect, the substantial assistance with handling the COVID-19 crisis provided by the Israeli Defense Forces, including its dedicated department for dealing with emergencies (i.e., the Home Front Command, an operational body that can be put into action, relatively quickly, for almost any civilian purpose), did not help develop major strategic civilian inter-sectoral capabilities throughout the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. Beyond that, the government’s centralized management of the ongoing crisis, which came at the expense of strengthening and aiding local municipalities, had several major advantages in terms of speed and coordination of the response, but also many disadvantages. As experience from other countries has shown, local municipalities could have played a crucial role in managing the crisis, and are much closer to the unique cultural, communal, social and economic needs of the diverse communities living in the country.
Outdated health legislation
When it comes to policy tools and legislation in general, Israel has entered the epidemic crisis without up-to-date legislation for disease control and large-scale emergencies in general. Rather it had an outdated ordinance dating back to the pre-independence British mandate. The sections relating to health emergencies have not been updated since the 1940s, which has created a legislative vacuum and the need for an agile solution. This led to the use of ad hoc policy tools in a hasty, rapid manner, and in a way that did not allow for effective and comprehensive policy discussion, and even led to policy decisions that were not based on public health rationales. Creating strategic and comprehensive legislation that deal with public health and other types of emergencies could lower dependency on such improvised solutions.
Lack of plans harms
the economy
Planning and focusing on long-term processes will foster greater resilience to pressure from different political groups and interest groups. In this context, the Israeli government has preferred general rather than differential policy responses throughout the crises. One reason for this lies in the government’s inability to implement painful restrictions on local municipalities. Israel’s lack of pre-discussed, nuanced and balanced solutions, and relatively low capacity to act in a nuanced way disproportionately harms the economy, and impairs the government’s ability to advance proportional and effective policy.
Good resilience, but potential underused
In general, Israel has manifested a high level of resilience and relatively rapid response throughout the crisis, but at the same only partial utilization of the country’s ability to creatively and strategically navigate through the ongoing complexity and uncertainty caused by the pandemic.
Sharkansky, Ira & Yair Zalmanovitch. 2000. Improvisation in Public Administration and Policy Making in Israel. Public Administration Review 60(4): 321-329.

Party Polarization

Increasing polarization in recent years
According to SGI data on ideological polarization in party systems, left-right polarization within the Israel party system is moderate and has even decreased over the last decade. However, over the last several years, polarization has increased substantially and the trend seems to be sustainable.
Divisions over Netanyahu
The four rounds of elections between September 2019 and March 2021, and the current situation following the last elections exemplify this point. Since September 2019, the polarization between the parties supporting the former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the parties opposing him is huge. Following the March 2021 elections, the anti-Netanyahu block formed the “change government” headed by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, which has a tiny majority in the Israeli parliament (the Knesset) of 61 out of 120 seats. The working relationship between the opposition and coalition government is almost non-existent, with opposition parties practically boycotting most of the parliament’s work. The only party that does not support Netanyahu or Bennett is the left-wing Joint List, which is primarily supported by Arab voters and has six seats in the Israeli parliament.
Difficulties even on routine issues
Overall, party polarization is very high, which challenges the effective management of “routine” issues as well as the handling of the ongoing, multi-dimensional crisis caused by the COVID-19 epidemic.
Major source of tension within society
According to the Israel Democracy Institute, political polarization is considered by the Israeli public to be one of the major sources of internal tension in Israeli society with 32% of the respondents viewing it as a major source of social tension. (Score: 4)
Israel Democracy Institute (2022), “Israeli Democracy Index 2021: Democratic Values,” January 12, 2022. Retrieved from

Hakman, Inbal (2021), “Was the Coronavirus Year Really One of Deepening Polarization?,” The Jewish Policy People Institute (JPPI), January 12, 2022. Retrieved from
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