The recent quashing of the Tal Law by the Supreme Court is a welcome end to an
unjust state of affairs. However, the Tal Law is merely a symptom of a far
graver malady facing Israel: our rapidly deteriorating political
Israel’s electoral and governmental system is failing and moving
us toward political paralysis. The writing has been on the wall for some time,
and soon it may be too late to make the necessary change. During the early years
of our state, the system was deemed convenient due to the special circumstances
Israel faced, but for too many years now, the system has become less than useful
In Israel, there is no sufficient separation of
powers. Around a third of the Knesset Members serve as ministers or
deputy ministers and are thus forbidden to introduce laws or participate in
committees. There are few apposite checks and balances, in fact,
farcically, the opposite is true; as an MK, I am expected to conduct oversight
of my role as Deputy Foreign Minister.
The electoral threshold is among
the lowest in the world, which allows parties representing narrow interests to
hold the balance of power. According to research, almost three-quarters of all
government decisions are not implemented. Our political structure and culture is
sorely lacking credibility and accountability.
As a result of this
unwieldy system, we have changed government, on average, every two years since
the founding of the state. This state of affairs does not allow for an
appropriate formulation and implementation of long-term policy.
just some of the disadvantages which are dragging Israel’s political system
toward stagnation and even collapse. We merely need to examine the challenges
and crises we have faced during the past few years to appreciate that the source
of the problem and the lack of solutions are connected to our current method of
The housing shortage and the high cost of living that brought
people to the streets this past summer are a result of the lack of a long-term
social-economic policy. There has been no consistent housing policy to answer
the needs of a growing population. Short-term interests have outweighed
the public’s needs and led to increasing social gaps.
The Carmel Forest
disaster became far worse because the funds necessary for the maintenance and
improvement of Israel’s Fire and Rescue Services were redirected elsewhere to
support narrow interests.
The assault on Israel’s legitimacy is our new
battlefield. Opposite the formulated, coherent, repetitive Palestinian
narrative, our messages are stunted by constantly changing governments, agendas
and even by coalition members from different parties. Often I am asked
with confusion by my colleagues in the international community which version is
Israel’s official position. In most nations in the world, the Housing Minister
would not be able to make public statements about national security
In recent weeks we witnessed a farce in the Israel National
Railways. Many citizens were left without any way of getting to work. Railways
workers’ committee chairwoman Gila Edri has seen 12 ministers of transportation
in her 22 years at the railway. Is it any wonder she thinks she is in control of
the railways system? For decades Iran’s nuclear ambitions were well known.
Today, as the clock is about to strike midnight, we are desperately seeking a
tactical solution for what should have been a carefully thought-out long-term
For the past 20 years, while Iran has advanced its program to
become a very real and present danger, we have had 10 defense ministers. While
the Iranians constantly moved toward nuclear weapons, we constantly moved toward
elections. The defense of Israel, of the entire Jewish people, must not be
treated like a game of musical chairs.
However, the long-term threat to
this country is the increasingly intolerable ratio between those who contribute
and those who merely benefit.
Under the current failing system of
government, in which in order to establish a coalition one must court the small
parties, the large parties have conceded the minimal demands of participating in
the national effort, to maintain some sort of pseudostability.
early years of the state, the vast majority of the population contributed to the
country; working, paying taxes, serving in the army and feeling part of wider
society. Those who received without giving back were far fewer. However, in the
near future, half of the Israeli population will benefit from without
contributing to the state. Those who contribute are collapsing under the tax
burden, with increasing professional and security demands. These are the
characteristics of a society with a tenuous future.
Under the current
system, while the political players may change and vary, the rotten structure
remains. While from time to time we hear certain voices jump into the fray over
government and electoral reform, few hold ambitions other than a nice
Yisrael Beiteinu has promoted political and electoral reform
since its inception, and has held this vital banner aloft both as a small party
and when it became the third largest one. When the results of the past elections
were known, Israel Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Liberman called on Kadima and the
Likud to create a government containing the three largest parties, with the sole
purpose of electoral reform. Unfortunately, both parties rejected the
There are those who wish the debate will remain academic, or will
just disappear. Only those “captains” of democracy whose political future is
threatened by change are paralyzed while the “Titanic” of governance is sinking.
We need new, fresh thinking to steer Israel back toward stability, governability
and a brighter and more equal future.
During my experience as a policy
advisor to three prime ministers, I saw the disadvantages of the Israeli
government system up close. As a diplomat and deputy foreign minister I have
been exposed to various types of government systems.
However, my most
significant experience was when I served as Israel’s ambassador to
During this time I took special note of the system that made
the USA the most powerful, successful and flourishing democracy in the
The presidential system has a lot of advantages and could serve as
a useful model.
As politicians and elected servants of the people we must
act responsibly and change the system.
Israel must adopt a system with a
proper separation of powers, checks and balances and accountability.
executive branch should be comprised of people according to their expertise and
skill in a field rather than the pressures of coalition-building.
raise the electoral threshold to a point where we will stabilize governance
without hurting representation.
We need to establish a constitution that
will uphold the spirit of our Declaration of Independence and replace the
current quasi-constitutional Basic Laws as set by the judiciary. The
constitution will define the nature of Israel as a Jewish and Democratic state,
will state the core values of our state, affirming its responsibilities toward
its citizens and the responsibility of its citizens towards the state. The
constitution will be written after deliberations and will be a unifying and not
a divisive document.
Israel’s many achievements have been gained despite
the system and not because of it. Israel is full of wonderful people with moral
and creative abilities. Our people deserve a system that will fulfill its
interests and will lead our nation to a better, safer and more equal
future.The writer is Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister and an Israel
Beiteinu MK. This op-ed is based on a speech he made to the Knesset last week
during a conference initiated by Ayalon to highlight the need for political and
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