The treatment of the Third Sector and its organizations by governments in Israel has been characterized by a lack of a declared, knowledge based and centrally planned policy. It takes a haphazard form of politically driven bargains, personally attained benefits, and reactive crisis intervention solutions. Paradoxically, the lack of planning and coordination in policymaking in issues involving the Third Sector is accompanied with an elaborate system of public funding to Third Sector organizations, a system that has developed incrementally over the years. These funding patterns have accumulated to a persistent de-facto policy towards that set of organizations. Findings on public funding to Third Sector organizations from two major research projects—the Johns Hopkins Comparative Nonprofit Sector Project and the Israeli Third Sector Database—served to analyze that de-facto policy towards the Third Sector in Israel. The large-scale funding of Third Sector organizations and specifically service providing organizations in the fields of “Education” and “Health”, alongside with the meager support of other types of organizations imply a conception of the Third Sector as a complementary organ of government. The statist ideology this funding pattern reveals results in a non-deliberate yet unmistakable policy. It is geared towards utilizing the Third Sector to replace and complement the public sector in providing different essential services, and at the same time minimizing or ignoring other roles of the sector altogether (advocacy, innovation, development of civil society). This policy has concrete consequences. Since government funding is the major funding source of the Third Sector in Israel, these preferences influence the nature and the composition of the sector. It strengthened the service provision tendency and increased the major role religion plays in the sector on the one hand. On the other hand it undermines the development of foundations as a significant alternative to public funding and the development of civil society. The findings point out to some of the social origins of the Israeli Third Sector. Among these we discuss the major role these organizations played in the pre-state era, the centrality of religion in the Jewish State, the centralist and statist ideologies of the first Israeli governments and some political arrangements which still are in effect after decades. Our data show that despite the structural changes that the Israeli society and polity underwent since the 1970s, the economic structure of the sector and its public funding patterns have basically stayed the same. That is in spite of the drastic growth and diversification the sector enderwent since the 1980s. Third Sector policy too still carries a strong statist flavor, as it completely ignores the rising element of civil society. The clear consequences of that unplanned de-facto policy raise various questions regarding the roles of the Third Sector in Israel, the necessity of a systematic public debate on these roles and the desired government policy towards the sector in light of these roles.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Business and International Management
- Public Administration