Sunday, April 29, 2007

Non-Ashkenazim appointed on merit nowadays

As prime minister of Israel, Menahem Begin started a revolution: Sephardim/Mizrahim first began to be appointed to important government posts. Today nobody is appointed because of their ethnic background, and nobody votes on ethnic lines anymore. Amos Asa'El writes in the Jerusalem Post:

"The Begin revolution was first of all social, as it embraced all those Labor had marginalized, from the haredim, who became pivotal coalition partners, to the non-Ashkenazi masses, whose representatives increasingly populated all corridors of power, from municipalities, consulates and religious councils to ministries, utilities and state-company boards, not to mention the Knesset.

"It took Labor leaders time to understand the power of this revolution, if not for any other reason than simply because it was news to them that they had hurt anyone, let alone entire populations. Now they too tried to join the trend, searching for attractive, "authentic" non-Ashkenazim of their own.

"That is how in 1988 Shimon Peres turned Amir Peretz, Sderot's little-known mayor, into a lawmaker. It was part of a zeitgeist dominated by an unofficial affirmative action, part of the same trend that inserted a Lilliputian diplomat like David Levy into Abba Eban's shoes, and installed a vulgarian like Yoram Marciano as Labor whip.

"Fortunately, such poor choices were rare. Others, from Meir Sheetrit at the Treasury and Shlomo Ben-Ami at the Foreign Ministry to Yitzhak Navon at the presidency and Moshe Nissim at the Justice Ministry reached senior office on their merit. Whether or not it was deliberate, the fact is that prior to the Begin revolution Israel was run pretty much exclusively by Ashkenazim. Now ethnicity is no longer relevant.

"With self-made non-Ashkenazim like Yitzhak Tshuva and Haim Saban dominating the energy and telecom industries, and with the IDF having had, since the Begin revolution, four non-Ashkenazi chiefs of General Staff, there is no longer a sizable swing-vote fueled by ethnic considerations. Today no one even notices that, say, Yossi Bachar, the Treasury director-general who executed the Netanyahu reforms, is Sephardi; he was hired due to his abilities, and judged regardless of his origins."

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