The rapid-fire events that rushed Israel into another early election are reminiscent of the Chad Gadya (The Tail Wagged the Dog) song we chant at the Pesach seder. Benjamin Ben-Eliezer suddenly decided to pull the Labor Party out of the national unity government in the hope of beating back the threat of Amram Mitzna and Haim Ramon, who are running against him in the Labor Party primaries. This forced Ariel Sharon to turn to Avigdor Lieberman, inviting him to join the coalition so as to keep the government afloat.
Lieberman, for no apparent reason, began to make life difficult for Sharon, who was keeping an eye out for Binyamin Netanyahu, his rival in the Likud primary elections. Hoping to beat Netanyahu to the punch, Sharon decided on early elections while appointing Netanyahu to be his foreign minister. Netanyahu had little choice but to accept while readying himself for the primary contest in the Likud. And the citizens of Israel are preparing themselves to go to the polls for the third time in four years. And that, while the Palestinian war of terror continues and the economy is in a shambles. The tail wagged the dog again.
Early parliamentary elections are supposed to be the exception in modern democracies. In the United States, there is no such thing, the president being elected for a four-year term. In Britain, where they are organized to have snap-elections within three weeks, early elections are called on the rare occasion when the prime minister thinks he has spotted an opportunity to increase his majority in the House of Commons. And in Germany early elections are called only when the opposition can present an alternate coalition government before a no-confidence vote is passed in the Bundestag.
But in Israel, in the wake of the direct election of the prime minister law that diminished the representation of the two large parties, early elections seem to occur at the snap of the finger. Thank God, that law has now been abolished.
What is the next Knesset going to look like and is it likely that Sharon, if he wins the Likud primaries, will be able to attain his announced objective of forming a national unity government with the participation of the Labor Party? To judge by the polls, the Likud will substantially increase its representation in the next Knesset, in large measure as a result of the abolition of the direct election of the prime minister law. The Labor Party, on the other hand, may not benefit from the change because its policy toward the Palestinians has been rejected by so many voters. However, if Amram Mitzna gains the leadership of the Labor Party, he is not likely to join a Likud-led government. So after the elections we'll be back to negotiations between Likud and Lieberman and his allies on the formation of the next government. Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose.
There will, however, be one significant change. The law that provides for the abolition of the direct election of the prime minister law includes a provision limiting no-confidence motions in the Knesset to "constructive" no-confidence motions. In other words, a no-confidence motion can only be presented by a coalition of parties that are prepared to form an alternate government. So that unless Avigdor Lieberman will be prepared to enter a coalition government with Yossi Sarid and Amram Mitzna, his party will not be able to unseat a Likud-led government. That will substantially improve the stability of Israel's future governments and reduce the frequency of early elections in the years to come.
So what was this all about? At this point, this election looks like a waste of time and a waste of money. Fuad should have kept the Labor Party in the government, Lieberman should have joined the government without setting conditions, and Sharon would have done us all a favor by not opting for early elections at this time.
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