World Jewish Congress head proposes reform of Israeli electoral system

Lauder called on President Isaac Herzog to form a bipartisan commission composed of individuals knowledgeable in democracy, elections and government.

Ron Lauder - The Jerusalem Post Annual Conference in New York 2022

Ronald S. Lauder, President of the World Jewish Congress and president of the Jerusalem Post Conference, said that Israel’s current electoral system is a “recipe for disaster,” given that one small political faction can topple a government

Speaking at the Jerusalem Post Conference in New York, Lauder, citing the fact that Israel has held five elections in the past three years, said that the current system, in which Israelis are equally divided between right and left, almost certainly guarantees that another election will soon follow the current one that will take place on November 1. 

The inherent instability of the political system in Israel, said Lauder, is not beneficial for the country and is a recipe for disaster. “No country, no business, no organization – nothing can function properly that can be blackmailed by any group,” he said.

In a humorous vein, Lauder quipped, “Some people when they go to bed  need to count sheep to help them fall asleep. Today, an Israeli prime minister needs to count Knesset members: “59, 60, 61” and then count them again in the morning to know if he’s going to the office that day.”

Lauder suggested that the Israeli electoral system is counter-productive and strangles creativity. “With the threats that Israel is facing, especially from Iran,” he declared,  “it cannot afford to be seen as unstable right now. Most people around the world must scratch their heads every time the Israelis go back to polls – they can’t figure out how any democracy can possibly work with that kind of constant upheaval.”

 Ron Lauder at the Jerusalem Post Conference in New York, September 12, 2022 (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM) Ron Lauder at the Jerusalem Post Conference in New York, September 12, 2022 (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

Rather than continue under the current system indefinitely, Lauder called on President Isaac Herzog to form a bipartisan commission composed of individuals knowledgeable in democracy, elections and government to create a new system that would, in his words, “finally pull Israel out of this mess.”

An Israeli prime minister elected for a four-year term, said Lauder, would be able to appoint ministers based on their expertise and knowledge of their ministries rather than their political connections. “ Can you imagine a minister of transportation who actually knows something about trains, bridges and highways,” said Lauder.  “A treasury minister who knows economics? A foreign minister who has served in embassies around the world? This would guarantee stability.”

Lauder suggested that nothing is more important for Israel’s future than revamping the electoral system, adding, “As Theodore Herzl said, ‘If you will it, it is no dream.’”