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LapidBenjamin Netanyahu, Naftali Bennett

Here we go again. Israel’s governing coalition did not last very long. It is about to dissolve and new elections will be held – probably in late October.

This will be the 5th election in 3 years. Which doesn’t say much for Israel’s parliamentary system of government. That is one of the ironies of trying to have as close to a democratic government as possible. The parliamentary system might be a more representative form of government. But it also weakens its ability to govern effectively. Especially in a country like Israel where there are more political opinions than voters.  When there are as many parties the Keneset (Israel’s parliament) as there are in Israel – it almost guarantees that political differences  between the parties will eventually sabotage the required majority coalition cobbled together by the leader of the party with he most votes. Which means new elections are called for again. This is exactly what happened this time, and every time in the last 4 governments.


The funny thing is that prior to first of these now 5 elections, there was a pretty stable government.  A coalition was held together by the last prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. His party, Likud, had a plurality of the voters giving it the most seats. Until about 3 years ago, he was able to form a coalition of like minded parties to form a slim majority for most of the 12 years of his leadership.

But 4 elections ago Netanyahu couldn’t do it anymore. His reliance on an unholy alliance between the Charedi parties and the politically right wing party of Avigdor Lieberman was stymied because he refused to be part of any collation that included the Charedi parties. The result is what we have now.

The more democratic – the less efficient. The obvious corollary to that is that a dictatorship would be the most efficient form of government. That’s probably true. But dictatorships are not always benevolent. Most of the time they are tyrannical and once in power, they tend to keep it  that way permanently.

In short, it’s a mess. But it doesn’t have to be that way. There is a happy medium. Direct elections for Prime Minister would be the best of both worlds – democracy and efficiency. It would obviate the need for coalitions.

If I recall correctly that was tried once. But it was quickly abandoned. Voters had been inclined to vote for the party that most represented their political views instead of compromising and voting for a party because of its leader whom they wanted to become Prime Minister. That really waters things down the power of the political parties. If politics is about anything – it’s about power.

I like the US system of 3 equal branches of government. The Executive (President), Legislative (Congress) and judicial (the courts) branches. That is probably the most efficient form of governance that can still be called a democracy. I have no clue why Israel could not adopt a similar form of government.

Be that as it may, Israel is what it is and needs to figure out a way to avoid the chaos that characterizes its government now.

I’m sure that has been increasingly on minds on every politician with each passing election. Israel cannot afford to continue having unstable governments. They need to look at what works best. To do that they should look at what gave Netanyahu 12 successful years.  Likud got the most votes and he led the party.

But he is no longer able to cobble together a governing coalition. Too much water under the bridge. He has made too many enemies. And there is also his corruption trial – Not a winning combination.

Will Likud still win  a plurality of the votes? It may. The fact is that under Netanyahu Israel had security and unprecedented economic growth. That was – and probably still is his strength.  That so many voters hate him may not affect whether they will vote for him. Most voters don’t care about the corruption charges he is facing. They want a government that works. Which it did under Netanyahu.

This will not change things. As it stands now, Netanyahu will not be barred from becoming Prime Minister. But I doubt he will succeed in returning to power. His political enemies in the Keneset still hate him. So I doubt the next election will solve anything. He still won’t be able to form a coalition.

The way I see it is that the chaos will continue ad infinitum if the political system doesn’t change. I see no way out. But who knows. I am not a Navi. Stay tuned.

{Reposted from the author’s blog}


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Harry Maryles runs the blog "Emes Ve-Emunah" which focuses on current events and issues that effect the Jewish world in general and Orthodoxy in particular. It discuses Hashkafa and news events of the day - from a Centrist perspctive and a philosphy of Torah U'Mada. He can be reached at [email protected].