Photo: Amit Shabi
'If a long government term means long paralysis, we would rather have elections'
Photo: Amit Shabi
Yoaz Hendel

A stable prime minister but no governability

Op-ed: If government is incapable of making decisions and passing basic laws, State of Israel should just be run by an appointed committee.

Three years ago, I had a conversation in the Prime Minister's Office with Knesset Member Zeev Elkin of the Likud, who served as coalition chairman at the time, about Basic Law: Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People.



The bill was submitted by former Knesset Member Avi Dichter of the Kadima party and signed by then-Kadima Chairwoman Tzipi Livni, and Elkin explained that it would be impossible to pass a basic law in a government which includes the ultra-Orthodox parties.


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sat securely on his seat, demanded that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state, but wasn't really interested in laws defining it as such. The silence method: What doesn’t make noise should just be put aside.


I supported the law at the time, and I still support it today although it has been subject to a lot of populism. The State of Israel needs a constitution. It must determine its character rather than go with the flow and with public opinion surveys. As we have no constitution, we are left with basic laws.


This state's character was determined at the beginning of the road: A Jewish and democratic state in which non-Jewish minorities have full rights. Most Israelis would not want to live in a Jewish state which is not democratic or in a democracy with no Jewish character.


The quality and the rights were anchored in Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty, and I argued that the state's definition as Jewish should be anchored in Basic Law: Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People. Both sides are an expression of Zionism.


That's a nice idea, a right-wing politician told me, but don't be naïve. As long as we have this form of government and this coalition makeup, basic laws will not pass. Accept it. The Declaration of Independence wouldn't pass in today's Knesset either.


Changing the form of government has been many Israelis' wet dream for three decades now. A messiah has never come here, he hasn't even called, but everyone has a messiah they are waiting for. The messiah of the hopeless is changing the method: The politicians are hollow, so we'll replace the tools.

The basic assumption is that governments in the Jewish state fail to implement a policy because of the length of their term. Time flies when you're having fun.


A politician promises the moon during the elections, gets to the government and discovers that the moon is far and unhelpful when the votes are counted. He knows the ministry's workers, appoints his associates to senior positions, moves the chair and hangs a picture. Just as he decides what would be both good for the state and for himself, there is already a threat to bring down the government.


It's impossible to work like this, say those in favor of changing the government system, we need governability.


The past few days actually require further thought. Netanyahu has broken the instability spell. He is as stable as possible. The seat is stuck to him, and he is stuck to the seat. His ideological perception appeals to many Israelis, he has no apparent alternatives and his approval ratings are higher than everyone else's.


This situation is convenient for governability, but the governability doesn’t know that. Each member of the coalition does as he pleases, each party proposes laws which appeal to its voters and rejects other parties' laws. There is so much stability that the state is in wait mode.


Elections are not in the State of Israel's interest, claim the Knesset speaker, the president and several faction heads who are desperately watching their voters fade away. But why not actually? If stability means inability to make decisions, we would rather have a crisis. If a long term means long paralysis, we would rather have elections.


A year and a half after the government's establishment, there has been no agreement on anything. Negotiations with the Palestinians were only held with Livni's support and Netanyahu's consent in closed rooms. The rest of the Likud and Bayit Yehudi members opposed the talks. Finance Minister Yair Lapid is advancing the zero-VAT plan, surrounded by government members from other parties who are calling it a failure. Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon waged a war in Gaza which Economy Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman criticized.


And now, the government without the haredim is experiencing difficulties a basic law, which all Zionist parties can allegedly find a way to agree on.


When it's impossible to pass a basic law, there is no need for a coalition. The titles and salaries should be left for those who want some more mountain air, and the State of Israel should be run by an appointed committee.


פרסום ראשון: 11.19.14, 00:49
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