Israel's Coalition System Is a Dictatorship of the Minority

The large number of parties that make up the next government will force the prime minister to endorse contradictory principles that stoke frustration and stagnation.

Nehemia Shtrasler
Nehemia Shtrasler
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
MK Stav Shafir (Labor) being removed from the committee room after requesting explanations on defense budget transfers.
MK Stav Shafir (Labor) being removed from the committee room after requesting explanations on defense budget transfers.Credit: Emil Salman
Nehemia Shtrasler
Nehemia Shtrasler

It’s quite clear. The new government after the election will not last as long as the current one. It will probably be another government of paralysis. That's where Israel's current system of government is taking us.

It turns out the ruling power in Israel has the lowest support among democratic countries. Meanwhile, 11 parties are expected to make it into the next Knesset, which leads to the conclusion that we have a great deal of overrepresentation and a critical lack of stability.

If Likud wants to form a right-wing government, it will have to sign coalition agreements with six (!) different parties, each with its own agenda. It will have to placate Naftali Bennett's Habayit Hayehudi, Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu, Moshe Kahlon's Kulanu and the three ultra-Orthodox parties.

But Bennett wants Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s job, Lieberman can't stand him and Kahlon doesn't trust him. So how can they work together?

Each will want to rack up achievements while smearing the prime minister’s reputation, as the three ultra-Orthdox parties try to scuttle every reform or change, every budget cut or streamlining measure. Yes, a government of paralysis.

Isaac Herzog’s situation is just as bad. For the Zionist Union leader to form a coalition, he'll have to sign agreements with five parties: Meretz, Yesh Atid, Kulanu, Shas and United Torah Judaism. Is that even possible? Will Shas' Arye Dery sit with Yesh Atid's Yair Lapid? Will left-wing Meretz get along with centrist Yesh Atid?

The coalition system is bankrupt. The large number of parties that make up the next government will force the prime minister to endorse contradictory principles that stoke frustration and stagnation. This is a dictatorship of the minority.

It's also a crumbling of democracy, which is the rule of the majority. Each party in the coalition constitutes a small minority among the nation, but without it the government does not exist.

The problem with the current system lies not only in the fact that we have an election every two years, but in the prime minister’s fear that his coalition partners will overthrow him at any moment. So from his first day in office he behaves as if the next elections were at the gate.

That's why he doesn't plan for the long term. He knows that if he pushes projects that take time, like a Tel Aviv subway, he'll invest money and effort but someone else will cut the ribbon. So why bother?

Italy also suffered from the frequent-election problem, so it changed its system of government in 2005 so that the party that won the most votes got 55 percent of the seats in parliament. The government was stabilized.

The Greeks had a similar problem, so in 2012 they decided that the party that captured the most votes would receive an extra sixth of the seats in parliament. The political system became stable.

If Israel had a law like this, there would be more preelection alliances and the largest party would receive, say, 35 of the Knesset's 120 seats. But it would then receive an extra 20 seats to put the number at 55. This would enable a stable four-year coalition that could carry out economic reforms and launch a peace process.

So until the system of government is changed, it's not that important who wins the election next week. The next government will be so unstable it won't last as long as the current one. Get ready for the next election in 2017, or even in 2016.

Click the alert icon to follow topics:

Comments

SUBSCRIBERS JOIN THE CONVERSATION FASTER

Automatic approval of subscriber comments.
From $1 for the first month

Already signed up? LOG IN

ICYMI

Charles Lindbergh addressing an America First Committee rally on October 3, 1941.

Ken Burns’ Brilliant ‘The U.S. and the Holocaust’ Has Only One Problem

The projected rise in sea level on a beach in Haifa over the next 30 years.

Facing Rapid Rise in Sea Levels, Israel Could Lose Large Parts of Its Coastline by 2050

Prime Minister Yair Lapid, this month.

Lapid to Haaretz: ‘I Have Learned to Respect the Left’

“Dubi,” whose full name is secret in keeping with instructions from the Mossad.

The Mossad’s Fateful 48 Hours Before the Yom Kippur War

Tal Dilian.

As Israel Reins in Its Cyberarms Industry, an Ex-intel Officer Is Building a New Empire

Queen Elizabeth II, King Charles III and a British synagogue.

How the Queen’s Death Changes British Jewry’s Most Distinctive Prayer