Environment, Administration, and Law in Israel: Government Ministries
The Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies - The Center for Environmental Policy - Research Series No. 21 (2005)
18 Pages Posted: 27 Dec 2015
Date Written: December 25, 2015
From the beginning of civilization, the public administration has been responsible for overseeing, coordinating, organizing, directing, supervising, and managing man’s private and public activities. The attempt to understand how Man acts in relation to his environment, and to direct Man’s activities in a way that can prevent serious environmental damage, is therefore the role of public administration — specifically the environmental administration. Beginning in the early twentieth century, health ministries were generally responsible for environmental management. Preventing epidemics was paramount, and this demanded protection of food and water. A broader approach to environmental protection gradually evolved, especially in developed countries. This approach attached importance not only to visible and immediate public health problems, but also to public nuisances and long range health problems: preventing air and noise pollution, treating waste, protecting nature, and averting the economic damage caused by environmental pollution. In most cases, health ministries were unable to accommodate this broad approach since it went beyond their normal range of activity. This, together with widespread public pressure, led most developed countries to restructure their public administration, and to transfer authority and manpower to one central governmental body that would be responsible for environmental protection. During this process, health ministries retained the authority to establish regulations based on public health considerations and to follow-up on public health effects of various environmental pollutants, but the role of executing and enforcing environmental regulations was given to new government ministries. The increased global awareness of environmental issues that followed the Stockholm Conference in 1972 was expressed, among other things, in the realm of public administration, through the establishment of new environmental ministries or government units, the concentration of environmental issues in central administrative bodies, or, as has been the trend over the past twenty years, the inclusion of articles for environmental protection in updated constitutions. The roots of public administration in Israel, specifically environmental administration, stem from the British Mandate period. At that time, environmental issues were dealt with indirectly and at the local level. There was no central governmental body whose aim was to protect individuals from environmental and public health nuisances, and there was no demand for a central environmental administrative body. The Mandate government in Israel was comprised of external institutions, such as the Colonial Office in Britain, administrative units (such as the Secretariat and the Regional Office, the Governing Council of the High Commissioner) and various departments, which were the basic administrative unit of the British Mandate. Of the more environmentally oriented were the Department of Health, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Fishing and Forestry, and the Mining Inspector. After the State of Israel was established, it was difficult to fit environmental protection into the existing government apparatus because environmental protection required an innovative approach and was a multi-disciplinary, specialized, and unconventional field. Increased public awareness of environmental damage in Israel and worldwide led to the gradual development of an environmental administration. The Nature Protection Authority and the National Parks Authority were established in the 1960s, the National Committee for the Biosphere and Environmental Quality and the Environmental Protection Service were established in the 1970s, and the Ministry of Environment was established in the late 1980s. Government decisions throughout the 1990’s transferred some of the authority that was scattered throughout various government ministries to the environmental ministry. Intergovernmental organization of environmental protection also began during this period. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, the government adopted a strategic program for sustainable development in Israel. The program forms a foundation for activities supporting environmental protection.
Keywords: public administration, environment, pollution, health, Israel, multi-disciplinary
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