The long, convoluted negotiations to form the government prove that Parkinson’s Law – “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion” – is alive and well. And this is why Netanyahu was not able to form a government before the new Knesset was sworn in. As soon as he was given 28 days (the countdown began two weeks ago) to form a government, nothing was so urgent. Religious Zionism and the Haredi parties understood that as time passed and the pressure grew on Bibi, they could get more ministers, more ministries, more jobs and some legislative changes that will maximize their power. So why hurry?
Therefore, the first reform the new government must pass is to reduce the coalition negotiation period. The 28 days should be shortened to 14, and the additional time that may be given by the president should be shortened to one week rather than the current two. This way the government will be formed more quickly, and we’ll avoid the unhealthy situation in which a prime minister who does not have the support of a majority of the public continues to run the country for a long time.
And here’s another necessary change: Legislation must be passed that caps the size of a cabinet at 18 ministers and four deputy ministers. (There once was such a law, but it was revoked.) Netanyahu is currently talking about a government with 30 ministers (and eight deputy ministers), which works out to a crazy ratio of one minister for every two MKs. And for this coalition to be able to function in the Knesset, Netanyahu also intends to expand the Norwegian Law, and thereby provide more jobs to cronies at taxpayer expense.
Forming such an inflated government and giving out so many positions essentially amounts to bribery. It means buying a government with prestigious positions, power and authority – positions that all come with a cushy office, aides, spokespeople and a driver. Don’t believe the stories that the cost of a minister or deputy minister only comes to a few million shekels. The big expense is the excessive number of ministries, which are being split up so much that they already number 31. That is why the number of government ministries should also be reduced to 18, which would lead to a huge savings of hundreds of millions of shekels, trim the public sector workforce, eliminate redundancies and reduce bureaucracy, leaving money for more important things like education, health, welfare and infrastructure. It was actually “the old Netanyahu” who, in 1996, insisted that his government would have only 18 ministers.
Common sense says that Likud should receive the biggest, most important portfolios, with the other partners sufficing with whatever remains. But everyone knows that Bibi blinks first. Ariel Sharon once said of him: “He can’t withstand pressure. I saw him in the Khaled Meshal affair – he fell apart and we had to put him back together.” Besides Netanyahu’s fears, this time he also has much more to lose. Without his partners on the right, he won’t be able to advance the moves to cancel his trial.
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Thus, it is no wonder that Religious Zionism and the Haredim will receive the most senior positions and portfolios that most affect our lives, while Likud will be left with the medium-sized and smaller portfolios. Bibi knows that David Bitan can rant all he wants (“Bibi is weak versus Smotrich and Dery”), Yisrael Katz can threaten and Danny Danon can complain, but all of them combined cannot raise the banner of revolt against the guy who brought Likud to power and ensured it plenty of jobs and money.
Bottom line, we’re about to get the worst of all worlds: a bloated, expensive government doubling as a settler-Haredi government that will change the face of the country. From a democratic-liberal-secular regime we’ll shift to an autocratic-ultranationalist-Haredi regime that will trample all over the justice system, turn the police into a politicized body, harm the watchdogs, “clean up” the media, legalize the illegal settlements and impose a “Jewish” state on us. It will be the government of Judea vanquishing the State of Israel.