How many non-functioning governments must we tolerate before we understand that our system of government is bankrupt, that it is critically ill and needs emergency surgery to save its life - our lives?
The government that is to be sworn in today will be the largest and most wasteful in the history of the state - and in a time of economic crisis. It will be presented by someone who often speaks loftily about the "bloated" public sector. It's the height of cynicism.
The coalition agreements signed by Benjamin Netanyahu are also irresponsible. Their cost comes to about NIS 8 billion, over three years, enormous amounts of money the state does not have. The deal with the Labor Party revives programs that were rejected long ago by the Finance Ministry's professional ranks, while the agreement with Shas will introduce a strategic shift: from work to government benefits and to increasing the size of families that are already large and poor.
The government will also be paralyzed when it comes to the peace process, because Avigdor Lieberman will cancel out Ehud Barak and Benny Begin will do the same vis-a-vis Isaac Herzog. Peace talks cannot take place with such a government. The right will halt any such initiative, and Labor will provide the fig leaf.
The foreign ministers of the European Union sent a strong message to Netanyahu this weekend, warning that if he does not recognize the two states for two peoples formula, "relations would become very difficult indeed." But Netanyahu does not believe in a Palestinian state. In his opinion, Israel must continue to control a majority of territory in the West Bank forever, and the Palestinians will have to settle for limited self-government in a few cities and cantons. That position is a nonstarter in terms of international relations that will exacerbate the conflict until the next confrontation.
And who will be summoned to the rescue? President Shimon Peres,who recently began to explain to the European foreign ministers that the new government actually is peace-seeking. After all, Netanyahu can't send his foreign minister, Lieberman, on this mission.
But after this criticism it must be admitted that it's difficult to do much better with the current system of government. It's a system in which no one party has a majority so there must be a coalition. The outcome is minority control, and that's the opposite of representational democracy.
It's a system in which loser takes all, where the one who fails is actually victorious. The small parties, including those whose power has shrunk, can fully satisfy their greed. The party of government is forced to pay them whatever they demand or forfeit heading the government. When Tzipi Livni refused to pay off Shas, she was unable to put together a government.
The system creates a situation in which the prime minister is always busy "maintaining" the coalition, making endless compromises and turning down every significant step and every reform - to stay in power. The government plays it safe, going for the boring middle, for paralysis, and that is a complete distortion of the voters' will.
The system does provide for a high level of representation, but it comes at the expense of two values that are no less important: governmental stability and governability. Without these, there is no long-term planning, no revolutions, just a daily battle for survival, the sword of early elections forever hanging over the prime minister's head. That is why the state will never achieve any strategic goal: not in education, not in infrastructure development, not in public service, not in the defense budget and not in the peace process.
President Barack Obama achieved a stable government for four years on account of a modest, eight percent majority and a presidential system of government. It is the only thing enabling him to rule with confidence and to dare to change the entire socioeconomic face of the United States. Is American society less diverse than Israel's? Is the American system of government less democratic?
Our system of government must, therefore, undergo a dramatic change. The goal must be governability and governmental stability for four years. It is the only way to get rid of the enormous, wasteful governments and the insane coalition agreements. It is the only way to achieve majority rule and allow the prime minister to tackle the country's fundamental problems rather than focusing all his attention on surviving in office.
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