Tarek Abu Hamed was appointed today to the position of Deputy Chief Scientist in the Ministry of Science. This is big news. Not gigantic, not an historic event to be recorded in the annals of the Levant, but significant nonetheless. In order to understand why, I need to tell a bit about Israel's Civil Service.
The Civil Service is a formidable place. Over the years it has acquired layers of complexity far beyond what non-civil servants recognize, making it much harder than necessary to get things done. Cabinet ministers, for example, usually have only very little long-lasting influence. They're not in the system long enough to figure it out, and even when they're experienced operators the system is geared to slow them down and limit their ability to do things. (There are some exceptions). The folks who have real power are the ones who are high in the system, but not so high they'll be moved within a year or three. The ones who are high enough to be in regular contact with many others of their general rank, as well as with the really top figures when they have the need.
The job Dr. Abu Hamed has just landed, therefore, is potentially a powerful behind-the-scenes mover, in a corner of the bureaucracy which itself has real significance: the allocation of funds and apportioning of government support in developing scientific and technological programs. Not anything to be sniffy about.
Dr. Abu Hamed is Arab, as his name indicates, but that's not the surprising part. There are higher ranking Arab civil servants, including some in positions which require high security clearance. The thing about Dr. Abu Hamed is that he's not an Israeli citizen. He's a Palestinian of East Jerusalem, a permanent resident by legal status, but not a citizen. Yet look what job he has just won.
Noteworthy. I certainly wish him the best.