The election was March 17th. A day later we knew how many Knesset seats each party had won. Some commentators speculated that the head of the leading party, Benyamin Netanyahu, would have no trouble creating a coalition. Others saw problems in the variety of small parties, any one or two of which could scuttle a deal.
Bibi succeeded in creating a government and winning Knesset approval, but only six weeks after he got the President's nod as the one most likely to succeed. Or actually a few days more than the six weeks officially allowed. Israelis permit a bit of wiggle room in their official deadlines.
It's now about a month after that accomplishment, and we're just about ready to start work. The most recent task was the appointment of Gilad Erdan to a ministerial appointment, being held up by other parties in the coalition refusing to let Bibi appoint more Likud ministers than he had agreed with them, and Benny Begin (the son of) refusing to step down from his appointment as Minister without Portfolio to allow Erdan to take his seat at the governmental table. Earlier, Erdan had refused the appointment that Netanyahu offered, and it took a while to solve that problem. Now Benny has given in, submitted his resignation, Erdan is in, and Bibi has a government.
Also problematic, for those who didn't get one of the most prized appointments, was the Prime Minister's choice of which ministers would sit in the Security and Political Cabinet, a limited body within the government that makes the crucial decisions about when to fight, how, and when to make concessions on matters of foreign policy.
We may also be finished, as a result of decisions just yesterday, about appointments to Knesset committees.
The problem there has been in several parties whose Knesset Members could not agree as to who would sit on what committees, and who would get the positions to chair each of the committees.
Meanwhile, citizens are waiting to have their problems solved, which is another curiosity. We learned long ago that elected politicians seldom solve anything.
Even when everything is staffed, there will be many more claims and arguments by politicians and activists than whatever they can claim as accomplishments.
Nonetheless, there is enough government occurring so that the country remains out of crisis. Unless, that is, you actually believe what any of the activists are saying we must do.
In the past few days, the police have continued to arrest criminals, including heads of organized crime, and the mayor of a middle sized town accused of sexual harassment. Courts have handed down another sentence for former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and the mayor of a middle sized city who had been judged to have enriched themselves at the public's expense. Labor courts have worked to hold off strikes of the ports, railroad, and a major mining concern, and arranged deals between representatives of management and labor. The schools are functioning, meter persons are putting tickets on cars parked improperly, the weather service is predicting each day's temperature, the IDF and other security forces are doing what they usually do to keep us safe.
Other countries also have their problems moving from elections to functioning governments. It's a lot easier making appointments in a country with a strong presidency than in a parliamentary system where election results produce a variety of parties, none close to a majority. US Presidents may have trouble getting the Senate to confirm a nominee for high office, but there, too, government continues without all the seats actually filled by the most recently appointed politicians.
Long ago politicians protected their countries against their incapacity to make decisions by notions of interim appointments and continuing budgets.
Much of our political coverage has concerned which Knesset Member has received which position as minister or head of a Knesset Committee, along with the threats and comments of the losers. Most of this work has been done by Likud Knesset Members appointed by the Prime Minister to the tasks of dealing with heads of political parties likely to be in the coalition and with MKs from Likud, with the Prime Minister having to be present for crucial meetings when his underlings have not settled things. Some of those key meetings have gone on for hours late into the night.
Threats of the disappointed are especially important when the government holds office by a majority of one. A single negative vote by an MK associated with a party in the government, or even an absence from the Knesset during a vote of no confidence can cause a crisis of national proportions.
Netanyahu has much on his plate beside satisfying his party colleagues and MKs of his coalition partners. He also talks on the telephone with the US President, Secretary of State, and their equivalents in major European governments, and has time for photo-ops and perhaps a bit more with prominent overseas Jews, athletes, wounded soldiers, and others thought deserving of his time. Lesser ministers are expected to share in those duties, and they all are required to gather at the airport whenever a major dignitary steps down from an airplane and onto the red carpet leading to the VIP entrance to the airport.
There are lots of applicants for those political tasks, few of which seem as attractive as a professorial appointment to a decent department, or some other job where it may be possible to gain personal satisfaction, and make a tiny difference in someone's life.
Israel and other democracies have lots of problems that require government action. Life is good for most of us, but it could be better, especially for those less healthy or less fortunate, or less satisfied with how the major problems of country, region, or world are being handled.
Our latest brouhaha has to do with Palestinian efforts to get the International Football (soccer) Federation (FIFA) to suspend Israel. It's a potential problem for Israelis preoccupied with sport, but so far shows no sign of threatening our national existence. Palestinians failed in their major demand, and the committee appointed to oversee Israeli actions may be nothing more than lip service. The poor choice of the Palestinians was focusing on one of the international organizations currently facing major charges against officials for accepting bribes. FIFA is in more trouble than Israel.
All democracies resemble what James Madison prescribed for the United States at the time when the Constitution was being debated, i.e., a separation of powers, with politicians set to compete and limit one another's capacity to do anything. Members of the US Congress, the Israeli Knesset, and other national parliaments introduce and send to committees for debate many times the proposals actually voted into law. Then the details actually implemented are a fraction of those written into the laws that were enacted.
The point is to keep the majority weak, and making it difficult to enact new measures quickly in the heat of public opinion.
The result is chronic and widespread dissatisfaction, and a lot of noise from politicians and activists. But the greater benefit is to increase the probability of deliberation, argument, and consultation prior to enactments, and further deliberation, argument, and consultation prior to the implementation of what is enacted.
It is inherently conservative, and widely viewed to be imperfect, but has been associated with the incremental progress of the countries having resources and the freedom of expression.
Then there is the non-democratic Third World. Some of it is nice to visit, but only when disease and bloody conflicts are under control.
Check the news before ordering a tour package.