Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Once again elections have been called prematurely and once again the country and its people will suffer as a result.
While it is certainly possible to point fingers at those responsible for the breakup of the current government it is vitally important to ensure that we find answers to guarantee that it is not repeated. The people of Israel deserve a government that is responsible, accountable, and above all, governable.
The State of Israel faces many challenges, including lowering the cost of living, battling security and terror threats, finding the right social and religious balance, the threat of a nuclear Iran and the global campaign against our right to exist as a Jewish state. These challenges are varied and each must be tackled in a holistic and serious manner. However, at the root of these and many of Israel’s problems is Israel’s electoral and government system.
For many years Israel’s government and parliamentary system has failed, to a point where it is moving us closer and closer to something approaching complete political paralysis.
Firstly, many government ministries have seen such a frequent turnover of ministers that few have lasted on average for more than two years. We have an absurd situation where this revolving-door effect means that no minister can clearly enunciate, let alone actualize, a long-term policy or strategy before having to leave their position. The current government is an extreme example, only lasting just over 20 months, but it is far from the exception.
Secondly, because of our unwieldy system and fractured centers of power, the system ensures that a prime minister arises in the morning, not necessarily to do what’s best for the country, but in order to maintain the integrity of their cabinet.
With each election more parties are created, meaning more fractured voting and fewer clear winners who can lead rather than maintain the status quo.
These, and sadly many other reasons, have left us at this juncture, and will consign us to an even more fraught political future.
If we do not act now, and put the issue of governability at the forefront of the national agenda then Israel’s prospects are bleak across many areas.
We are once again facing many more months of uncertainty even while the economic and security situation continue to worsen. The worst possible response is to ignore the elephant in the room.
Albert Einstein once defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. The country needs brave leadership which can break this cycle of inaction and ineffective governance.
Unfortunately, only Yisrael Beytenu has seriously stressed and even addressed this problem.
Earlier in the year, our party finally passed many of its long-standing principles to improve the system, including raising the threshold for Knesset representation from two percent to 3.25%, limiting the number of ministers and deputy ministers in the government, canceling the posts of ministers-without-portfolios and limiting the amount of pointless and time-consuming no-confidence votes. It also addressed the ability of a government which lacks an approved budget, and the time given to a new government to pass the budget.
However, there is still much more work to be done and it can only be achieved if we utilize elements of systems which provide greater stability and accountability.
This includes a separation of powers whereby members of the government would not sit in the Knesset. A separation of powers is vital because it provides checks and balances necessary for good governance and allows for ministers to concentrate on their executive positions and not be involved in the absurd situation where they are asked to supervise and review their own positions.
Yisrael Beytenu, a party which has long taken the lead on many issues, has decided not to wait for official government reform in this area and has “put its money where its mouth is” and committed that in the next government its ministers will not sit in the Knesset.
We need bold decisions to repair our broken system. It requires leaders who put the nation first and not narrow and short-term political decisions which merely ensure the maintenance of power.
It is hoped that as many parties as possible will put the country and its citizens first and commit to reforming our electoral and government system so that we can face the mounting challenges together.
If not, we can expect many more ephemeral governments, an absence of long-term strategic decision-making and more frequent elections at a expense of the taxpayers and to the detriment of the public’s trust in politicians.
While our political and ideological agendas may differ, tackling the root cause of the lack of governability and the frequency of government dissipations should become the rallying point for all parties and leaders who claim to put their country first.
The writer is minister of agriculture and rural development and a member of Knesset for Yisrael Beytenu.