The new national unity government could be a rare opportunity to bring real
legislative progress and stability to Israel, and should not be seen as a threat
to democracy, Dr.
Arye Carmon, founder and president of the Israel
Democracy Institute, told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday.
the night before last is an opportunity to bring change that can make Israel
more stable, and bring Israel into the OECD as a country with a modern public
management system,” he said.
According to Carmon, the late-night
political bombshell means that “we now have an opportunity to deal with many of
the ailments facing our society” and that the country now “has a government that
will attain results that represent the demands of the majority of the Israeli
public,” without being beholden to the wills of smaller parties.
the decision meant Israel would avoid the proposed early elections in September
that would have resulted in a government similar to the pre-national-unity
government, with the Likud holding around 30 seats and forced to build a
coalition with seven parties holding at most 10-20 seats each. Such a situation
would have meant a continuation of the “survival politics” of coalition parties,
that result in legislative gridlock, he added.
The institute itself has
drafted proposals for changing the governmental system with an eye toward, among
other things, creating a framework wherein smaller parties would exercise less
power over the government as a whole. These proposals suggest doing so by
raising the Knesset threshold from 2 percent to 4%, which they argue would cut
down on the influence of smaller parties.
According to the institute’s
proposal, “Israeli politics suffers from exaggerated polarization due to the
multitude of small, sectorial parties, and the difficulty in forming a coalition
damages the stability of the country’s leadership and its ability to carry out
The proposal also calls for limiting the number of government
ministers to 18, in contrast to the current 28, among other
Carmon said if such a plan were implemented, it would deal a
blow to smaller sectorial parties, which would be forced to decide whether to
remain on the fringes of the Knesset or move toward joining the larger, more
He said that ideally it could create a situation in
which Israel has a large Center-Right bloc and a large Center-Left bloc, as well
as voting blocs representing the Arab and haredi (ultra-Orthodox)
For the here and now, Carmon said he didn’t see “any basis
whatsoever” to claims that the unity government represented a sort of
“Putinization” of Israel – a reference to Russian President Vladimir Putin –
with Netanyahu de facto czar-for-life. Not only does Israel remain a democracy,
he argued, but even with a massive coalition, Netanyahu will still face issues
such as haredi IDF conscription and the evacuation of the Ulpana outpost, which
will require him to work with coalition partners strongly opposed to such moves.
The difference now, he said, is that those smaller coalition partners will have
less leverage over the prime minister.
Regarding contentions that new
Kadima chairman Shaul Mofaz has struck a blow to democracy by bringing his
opposition party into the Likud-led coalition, Carmon said that “the people who
voted for Livni and Kadima three years ago did not do so because they wanted her
to be in the opposition. They chose her to lead the country.”
that she had erred by not joining a coalition with Netanyahu after the last
While the media has spent much of the last two days discussing
who stands to lose the most from the deal, Carmon said the main victim of the
unity deal was not Yair Lapid or the Labor Party, but the public’s faith in the
country’s political system.
Still, he added, “I think this can be
improved if this massive coalition carries out some of the challenges that have
been placed upon it.”