Netanyahu looks up in Knesset_370.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Labor MKs were among the first to attack the surprise coalition agreement signed
between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Kadima head Shaul
Labor Party leader Shelly Yacimovich called it an “embodiment of
political evil.” MK Binyamin Ben-Eliezer referred to our political scene as
“garbage.” MK Isaac Herzog termed the deal “an alliance of cowards.”
Labor lawmakers all conveniently omitted the fact that up until January 2011,
they were members of the very same government so eminently worthy of their
scorn. Ben-Eliezer and Herzog even held portfolios.
Meanwhile, during a
speech before the Rabbinical Assembly of the Conservative movement in Atlanta,
media-personality-turned-politician Yair Lapid likened the new 94-member
government coalition to the government headed by former Romanian dictator
But while politicians can be forgiven their short
memories and their love for hyperbole, if not demagogy, other supposedly
“objective” figures were critical of the deal as well.
Institute vice president Mordechai Kremnitzer claimed that the “mammoth”
coalition created as a result of the incorporation of Kadima was
Why would Kremnitzer, a proponent of stable governments that
live out their days, be opposed to the deal? And why would he consider it
According to Kremnitzer, the new coalition is too stable and can “do
as it pleases” without being challenged by an effective opposition. Therefore,
it is “dangerous.” Others have repeated Kremnitzer’s argument without
giving serious thought to its logic.
In reality, there is nothing better
for the State of Israel right now than a stable government that will survive its
four-year-plus mandate. Early elections would have been an unnecessary waste of
taxpayers’ money and would have postponed long-awaited and much needed reforms,
not to mention the disruption of multi-year ministerial planning and the delay
of the passage of the two-year state budget for 2013-2014. Instead of gearing up
for elections, our lawmakers can focus on what they were voted into office to
As pointed out by Kremnitzer’s colleagues at the IDI, for the first
time since electoral reforms were first proposed just months after the creation
of the state by David Ben-Gurion, there is a real opportunity to implement them.
Measures such as raising the electoral threshold from 2 percent, instituting
regional elections and increasing the number of MKs in the Knesset could all
contribute to future governments’ stability. And these changes can be pushed
through despite the opposition of smaller parties that stand to lose
There is also an opportunity to right the historic wrong of haredi
draft-dodging, preferably in cooperation with Shas and United Torah Judaism, the
two ultra-Orthodox parties in the government coalition. Past attempts to change
the practice according to which haredi yeshiva students can defer mandatory
military service indefinitely in order to devote themselves to Torah studies
have failed because narrow government coalitions depended on haredi political
parties’ support. And in the rare cases when a government did not include haredi
parties – such as Ariel Sharon’s February 2001 government – it was considered
openly antagonistic to haredi interests.
Now a unique situation has been
created in which the High Court – not a haredi-bashing politician – has ruled
that the Tal Law violates the principle of equality and therefore must be
The present government is broad enough that it cannot be
toppled by Shas and UTJ. Meanwhile, Shas and UTJ are members of the coalition,
which means they can directly influence the legislation if they choose to
compromise. This raises the risk that the resulting law might get watered
down. But it also increases the chances that the haredi public will adhere to
the law that is approved.
The inevitable give and take that will unfold
during the Knesset debate over the budget, election reform and the Tal Law
replacement will be an eminently democratic process. And it will be made
possible thanks to the deal clinched between Netanyahu and Mofaz. Claims that a
broad coalition is “dangerous” or “Ceausescu-like” are based more on hyperbole
and demagogy than on a rational analysis of the facts.