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Prof. Yitzhak Ben Israel, chairman of the MOLMOVP: adopts the previous council's decision for the promotion of space

"We are in a situation where we have to think about how to continue and how to open up the following areas and not repeat what we did in the past," says Ben Israel in an interview upon his assumption of office. The location of the council - in the Ministry of Science or elsewhere - is not so important"

Prof. Yitzhak Ben Israel. Photo: Kobi Kantor
Prof. Yitzhak Ben Israel. Photo: Kobi Kantor

"My appointment as chairman of the MoLMOP came as a surprise. From the moment they contacted me to the moment they approved, a fairly short time passed," says Prof. Yitzhak Ben Israel from Tel Aviv University, Major General, former head of Mafat and member of Knesset on behalf of Kadima. Ben-Israel replaces Prof. Oded Abramsky, who resigned along with many members of the National Research and Development Council, due to a dispute regarding its affiliation - the Ministry of Science preferred to keep the council under his responsibility, while in Prof. Abramsky's opinion, the council must be independent and be subordinated only organizationally to the Prime Minister's Office , like the National Security Council.

According to Prof. Ben-Israel, the role of the National Council for Research and Development is to be a body that will recommend policy. "The MoLMOP was established by law, and it is supposed to do the integration and then recommend to the government the general research and development policy in Israel. Each government ministry has its own chief scientist, and there are three entities that spend large sums - each over a billion shekels - on R&D per year: the head of the Research and Development Institute, the Chief Scientist of the Research and Development Institute, and the Academy through Research and Development. There are also many small R&D bodies in the various ministries, such as the ministries of agriculture and health," says Ben Israel.

"When it comes to such a large government expenditure, there is a need for an overall view that is not within the sector where one is responsible for defense R&D, the second for industry and the third for academia. We need an overall view, which is why a National Council for Research and Development was established, which should look at the overall picture and recommend the overall policy to the government. It's not an executive body, it's a body that recommends the policy to the government and the government decides."

According to the argument of the people of the previous council, it is difficult to convince someone to spend billions when you are in a relatively small office like the Ministry of Science.
"It doesn't matter, the council should determine the policy, regardless of who spends the money it recommends budgeting and certainly regardless of who holds it. It exists by law and its budget is provided separately by the Treasury. In my opinion, the location of the council - in the Ministry of Science or elsewhere - is not that important.

First, it needs to be turned into an effective body that influences policy, and does not replace the executive bodies, for this purpose it is necessary to increase the cooperation with the executive bodies I mentioned above, and give it the tools to do it. You have to work with the other government ministries and especially with the Treasury and that's what I'm doing today. I'm not coming with demands yet, but trying to get cooperation and that's essential. As far as I understand, there is also an understanding of the need for the existence of such a body in the Treasury, so there will also be support from the Treasury."

Who will replace the council members who resigned?
"The law has a definition of how members are chosen for the council - there are a number of members from academia and others from industry, and for each one it is written who should be consulted (the head of the scientific administration from the side of the TMT and the chief scientist at the TMT from the side of the industry) 15 members serve on the council, 13-14 of them already were elected, the process is more or less complete."

What do you think about the priorities in the various areas that the council recommended - space, life sciences, computing and hi-tech?

"The recommendation to increase the investment in R&D in space is from the previous MOL and I think it is in its place. It is in the implementation phase and there are discussions with the Treasury on how to do it. A team was formed that the president and prime minister appointed to prepare a plan for space following the recommendation of the MoLMOP. The team submitted its report and are now discussing with the Treasury how to implement it. If we accept what is recommended in this report, we will have every year the start of production of a LEO satellite (low orbit, for example photography satellites. AB) and every two years a communication satellite. Considering that it takes five years to build a satellite, this means that on average there will always be 5-6 satellites under construction at any given moment. Of course the target is the external market.

The field of life sciences is a field made up of dozens of subfields, and when you say life sciences, you have to look at a national point of view - starting with the universities, through the research institutes, and ending with the industry - and see, taking all of these into account, what of this vast field is suitable for the State of Israel, and where we have a relative advantage. This is exactly the kind of thing for which a national R&D council is needed.

The field of hi-tech and software also requires a revision. We have succeeded quite well in this until today, but our success in the high-tech field is more or less self-exhaustive. We are in a situation where we have to think about how to continue and how to open up the following areas and not repeat what we did in the past. Here, too, the matter needs to be re-looked at in a fresh way."

In conclusion, Prof. Ben Israel says that the recommendations of the MoLMOP so far have been good. "If we implement what the government decided - the situation will improve."

One response

  1. Question - Does Israel have the resources and knowledge for a manned space program? - Is it necessary?

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