The Ministers of Finance and Agriculture and the CEOs of their ministries present the reform in agriculture. The opening shot for the attacks against Kapman-Pass (photo: official website, Ministry of Finance spokesperson)
During the negotiations on the agricultural reform, which moved the cheese and with it the milk, vegetables and fruits to the farmers, and drove them out of their minds, their representatives marked the one who was seen in their eyes as the "weak link": Naama Kaufman-Pess, the director general of the Ministry of Agriculture, whose crimes are a woman.
What Kaufman went through, many good things went before her.
When the agricultural lobby to its sections, one of the most chauvinistic sectors in the Israeli economy, sees a woman in a key role, he tries to make her a school, and when that fails, he lynches her.
The leaders of the farmers tried to bypass her in every way, claimed that she understood nothing about agriculture, that she had no idea what she was talking about, mocked her to her face and behind her back, called her "chicken" and "cow" and persecuted her personally in the media, after she filed a complaint with the Civil Service Commission against A senior vice president in the ministry, who acted as a mole in the service of the farmers and leaked information to them.
The massive pressure they exerted on her included a complaint to the police about wiretapping, a complaint to the Civil Service Commission, a letter to the Legal Advisor to the Government and the Minister of Agriculture, but it did not move her a millimeter from her position.
Kaufman put an end to the threats, insults and displays of violence, and continued with determination to lead the policy dictated by her minister, Oded Porer, against the nose and anger of those who tried to eliminate the reform in order to maintain their power and influence, and they spared nothing.
It is possible that if the heads of the farmers' organizations had done their homework, and studied her biography, and realized that she came to manage the Ministry of Agriculture with a broad academic education, extensive experience in government management, and more of Phil's, they would have taken, perhaps, a different tactic.
After 19 years in the government service, with a number of senior positions on her resume and a phenomenal ability to integrate, it is very difficult to scare her.
From the right: Naama Kapman-Pess, Avshalom (Avo) Velin, Chairman of the Israel Agricultural Organization and the outgoing Minister of Agriculture, Oded Forer (photo: photo editing, Miri Tzachi-Maariv, Niv Aharonson, Inbal Marmari)
She is 44 years old, was born into a religious family and still observes Shabbat to this day, but does not turn off the phone in case of mental control, lives with her husband and three children in Jerusalem and suffers from a cold in the tepid Tel Aviv humidity of the winter.
An energetic woman with bright curls, a tailored jacket and a lot of determination and ambition.
After national service, she studied for a bachelor's and master's degree in law, and a two-year degree in business administration, with a specialization in finance - in the excellent track at Bar Ilan.
Her first job was in the legal office of the Treasury, under Yamima Mazuz, the sister of former High Court judge Manny Mazuz. She gave legal advice to all departments and was a referent for the areas of energy, the environment, transportation and all the execution departments of the Accountant General.
After nine and a half years, the accountant general at the time, Michal Abadi, asked her to establish the risk management division.
She left the Treasury and was the first woman to serve as a management member of the Accountant General, established the government risk management system and served as chairman of the exemption committee. In total, she was involved in nearly 300 government projects.
She was later appointed deputy director general and deputy director general The Ministry of Economy, and the person in charge of Israeli industry, when the Corona crisis broke out, she established the Corona headquarters that provided service to businesses, established the "Green Note" website, adapted the regulations to the business sector, opened the malls to the public and worked 20 hours a day.
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I felt ripe
"Then I felt ready to run an office myself," she says.
"I'm not a big politician, but I have the professional name that I brought with me. I've always looked for additional responsibility, I create good working relationships and always speak Dogri. I met Oded Porer in the Finance and Economic Committee. The connection between us was professional. I told him he wanted to pass structural reforms and I thought I could to carry them out. I connected with his honesty and leadership, he is a very matter-of-fact person."
What about farming?
"Government offices are very similar and I have rich government experience. Government is a profession, it's getting to know the internal bureaucracy, how to do a process, what is a proper manager, how to conduct meetings. Today I have a doctorate in eggs and plants and if I am in the Ministry of Housing, I will have a doctorate in land marketing. In the end, a CEO has to promote his minister's policy.
The higher officialdom should also promote the minister's policy."
This did not happen in your office. Not only did some of the higher officialdom not promote the minister's policy,
"The majority of the officials definitely promoted the minister's policy. There are some on the fringes who did the opposite. I think it's appropriate for the VP to say, 'The policy is not acceptable to me, I'm getting up and leaving.'
But you can't stay in office and row against the policy.
It is possible to challenge, to flood topics in internal discussions, it is even necessary, but in the end what the minister wants is carried out."
Minister of Agriculture Oded Porer. "The majority of officials definitely promoted the minister's policy. There are some on the fringes who did the opposite" (Photo: Reuven Castro)
No movement out
The disputes between the farmers and the Ministries of Agriculture and Finance reached mutual mudslinging in the media, when the farmers accused the Minister of Agriculture and Finance of destroying local agriculture, and the ministers attacked back and claimed that the Ministry of Agriculture had become the "Ministry of Farmers" over the years, and that the officials of the Ministry serve the interests of the farmers and not the citizens.
Kaufman also has criticism.
"I don't want to refer to a person's body, but there is no doubt that there should be a reform in the civil service on the issue of senior clerkships. Limit the tenure of the clerks in the regulations and it doesn't work. There is no movement out. People sit in the same chair for 30 years and occupy a position. The Ministry of Agriculture belongs to the government and we Work according to her agenda. Some employees understand it, and those who don't - need to refine it. An official can't say, that's the policy and I don't follow it.
"If a fixed tenure was decided, employees should be moved when it ends. The system must adapt to the current world that requires movement and replacement. The level of professional experience and the ability to stand the CEO is critical.
I am a person of details, I know the reforms down to the comma level and can write a PhD on them.
So if an employee doesn't do something, I can cover for him.
"This is the place to make it clear that most of the employees of the Ministry of Agriculture come to work and want to uphold the government's policy."
When she took office she found an office that ran without a budget and within three and a half weeks, an extremely short time, she prepared the agriculture budget in detail, while mobilizing the governmental experience she had gained.
Then the "holy cow" of agriculture was touched and the mess began.
"I passed several reforms in my life," she says.
But not a reform that was talked about for years, but no agriculture minister dared to touch it.
"Because they were engaged in it for so many years, some said, there was a great deal of knowledge that had been gathered. The argument against us was that the reform was done in a flash and that I am a clerk who does not understand anything. But I also understand: I understand the farm, I understand the economy. I worked with the Ministry of Agriculture quite a bit when I was in the Ministry of Economy And someone like me understands that these are small and medium-sized businesses that have not been taken care of. I was the registrar of the cooperative societies, and I met the agricultural lobby there."
And because you knew the power of the agricultural lobby, weren't you afraid to mess with them?
"I'm not a scared person. Someone who doesn't know how to make decisions, who doesn't sit in senior positions."
And the insults they threw at you?
"I said in the Knesset several times that public officials are insulted and not insulted. People who have difficulty with the government can get angry and upset and I know how to accommodate and dance."
What are you not forgiving?
"I'm ready to contain everything. When they told me I was a cow in the barn, I felt like I was telling my daughter, don't be insulted by nonsense. What's more, I had the full backing of the minister."
And you received exciting backing from the CEOs of the other government ministries who publicly supported you.
"There was extraordinary cooperation between the CEOs of the government ministries. We had a CEO forum that hadn't existed for years, there was consolidation, we worked on solving problems between us because there was precipitation , and we released many joint programs.
Their support warmed the heart.
The collegiality, and the power of the group to say, you will not behave like this to any of us."
Was there a moment when you broke down?
"Not even for a minute.
When I have the backing of the minister and I work in a proper administration with legal advice and the accompaniment of a general accountant, it is my duty to make decisions.
I always act on a matter-of-fact level and am based on knowledge.
According to their concept, if you haven't held a Toria, you don't know the world of economics.
It is clear to you why they chose you as a victim.
"Because I'm a woman. But they didn't succeed."
Advocate Naama Kapman-Pess, Director General of the Ministry of Agriculture (photo: official website, Inbal Marmari)
"Cherries are not a fruit for the poor"
One of the most difficult situations for her was an internal meeting where one of the participants put a basket of cherries on the table and when she said, "I can't afford to buy them at such a high price and neither can most of the public", someone in the room answered her, "cherries are not a fruit for the poor".
"The very fact that an official can say such a thing and not understand what is wrong with what he is saying is the problem. There are hundreds and thousands of children in the State of Israel who do not eat fruits and vegetables because they are expensive. The population of Israel has doubled in the last twenty years and the amount of vegetables and fruits grown has remained the same. Rishon in economics says that when there is high demand and low supply, prices rise.
"The government is embarking on a deep reform and I am strengthening the farmers whose productivity is low, and connecting them to technology to reduce the gaps in front of it.
R&D in agriculture has also deteriorated. There is no adaptation to climate changes and they are not waiting for us. We should have developed heat-resistant varieties of wheat and tomatoes a long time ago,
Despite the reform, the prices of vegetables and fruits increased the last index.
"It wasn't done in one day, deep processes are not a done deal. It is possible to reduce costs as a whole through technological processes, machines that harvest fruit and vegetables that have never been harvested before.
Replacement mechanization is critical. We transfer these funds to farmers and help them find the advanced technology that suits them. It's like with the water problem that was in Israel.
"The second component is diversity.
If you have 20 types of waffles, you can choose the one whose price suits you.
They import fruits and vegetables from abroad while strengthening local industry and agriculture. They are not neglected. Farmers are getting old, agriculture is shrinking and instead of tomatoes they grow solar panels. You can put collectors on the roof and grow food below."
Oded Forer will leave the office very soon and Kaufman will probably have to find her a new job.
"Government work is amazing. On your most difficult day, you move another process, lift another stone, the sense of mission and action is enormous.
"I know how to be an excellent CEO who promotes the policies of my minister and this can be in all kinds of ministries, because I have expertise in government management Going into the business sector is also a consideration after 19 years in the public sector. If he doesn't help in a government office, I will do another influential role - but outside. I am a person of results and I will bring them wherever I am."
Ministry of Agriculture
Vegetables and fruits