“We won’t sit with a government that does not agree” to reform the governmental
structure in ways that will stabilize governance, said Yesh Atid party leader
Yair Lapid on Wednesday in a policy speech at the Citizens Empowerment Center of
Israel in Tel Aviv.
In a speech following the US presidential vote in
which President Barack Obama was reelected, Lapid praised the American system of
government in which the president is elected only once every four years and
cannot be blackmailed by smaller parties who threaten the premier with a vote of
In contrast, Lapid criticized the current Israeli
structure in which small parties can force early elections.
leader also criticized the sharp rise in the number of cabinet ministers and
deputy ministers to 35, three of whom have no portfolio. He cited several
examples of European countries where there are fewer than half as many cabinet
Lapid also slammed what he called the disconnect between
ministers and any measure of accountability to the general public.
party leader accused Construction and Housing Ministry Ariel Attias of “tossing
the Trajtenberg Report in the garbage” in order to favor his narrow Shas voter
constituency, rather than helping those who have “served as soldiers and pay
The current system inherently sets off “sectarian
divisions” and does not make sense, said Lapid.
Besides the problem of
what he called the sectarian nature of Israeli elections in preventing
accountability to the public, Lapid also said that the problematically high
number of ministers made it impossible for citizens to come to a single location
to solve specific problems.
The party leader gave examples in which
absurdly simple issues could only be solved by consulting up to seven different
To address the various problems, Lapid proposed three main
First, he said that only the head of the party with the most
Knesset mandates should be able to form a government.
Although the party
head would still need to negotiate somewhat with the smaller parties, he or she
would be more able to stand up to blackmail and would feel less of a need to
offer the smaller parties the best deal, since the party head would be assured
of being prime minister in any case.
In the last election, Prime Minister
Binyamin Netanyahu became prime minister by having a larger bloc of parties
supporting him, even though former Kadima leader Tzipi Livni garnered slightly
Lapid’s second proposed change involved changing the
election threshhold, i.e. the percentage of the vote needed for a party to earn
a mandate in the Knesset. He advocated raising the number from two percent of
the vote to 6%.
This would return Israel to a state where the largest
party would have at least 40-45 seats and would find it easier to govern without
“selling out” to the smaller parties.
Lastly, Lapid said that only a vote
of 70 Knesset members should be able to bring on early elections. This would
ensure that more governments would serve out their terms, which would allow
individual ministers to accomplish more.
He said that there have been 11
education ministers in the last 20 years, preventing any real achievements in
Lapid did not directly answer a question asked by The
Jerusalem Post on how he would ensure that these reforms would occur when polls
have predicted that Yesh Atid will be at most a medium-sized party in the next
The party leader responded by saying that the idea that the few
parties like his that are trying to represent the entire nation are smaller ones
is part of the problem, and that enacting the reform will empower centrist
parties working toward the good of the country as a whole.
the issue of changing the structure of government, Lapid also said that the
state “needs a constitution to define religionstate issues and questions of the
relationship between the citizen and the state.”
“All of this is possible
and simple; we’ll put this in any agreement” of any government we join, said
Top party leaders Herzliya Mayor Yael German and former Shin Bet
(Israel Security Agency) head Yaakov Perry also attended the event and said that
Lapid’s strong support for reform on these issues was one of the reasons they
joined Yesh Atid.
Lapid also took the opportunity to criticize Netanyahu,
who he said “gambled” by “taking Romney’s side” in the American
He said Netanyahu and Romney have some of the same key donors
and that Netanyahu must now “fix” any damage he caused in his relations with the
The center holding the event has published a
similar plan for reforming the governmental structure, although its plan also
includes a fourth point in favor of connecting the national and local election
A Yesh Atid spokesperson said it was in favor of this point as
well, but viewed it as a goal to pursue only after first succeeding in regards
to the three more critical points of reform.