Israel's political merry go round must stop - opinion

Israel's political disarray is necessitating a fundamental change in the government system.

 Opposition head Benjamin Netanyahu in the Knesset plenum, February 7, 2022. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Opposition head Benjamin Netanyahu in the Knesset plenum, February 7, 2022.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

In Israel, elections have become a new Olympic sport. One round of elections after another has cost the country roughly NIS 12 billion over the past five years, not to mention the economic losses caused by the absence of a national budget for government ministries, the direct damage to our personal finances, and the persistent turmoil that has damaged every national institution.

The political merry-go-round makes it harder to govern and run the state effectively. In the absence of a clear planning agenda, combating the rising cost of living, addressing the housing supply shortage, building a stable national health system, combating crime, reducing road deaths, and implementing comprehensive infrastructure plans become a challenge, to say the least.

What could have been accomplished with NIS 2.4 billion (the cost of each round of elections)? Numerous institutions in Israel would benefit substantially from a fraction of that sum.

Political instability in Israel is nothing new: Calls for a change in Israel’s electoral and governing systems have been around since the days of Mapai. Few Israeli governments have completed their full term, but the past four years have seen Israel’s political instability hit new lows.

 A KICKING the can down the road approach, carried on by the Bennett-Lapid government, has resulted in the rise of Hamas as a political force in the West Bank, says the writer (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST) A KICKING the can down the road approach, carried on by the Bennett-Lapid government, has resulted in the rise of Hamas as a political force in the West Bank, says the writer (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu has mastered the game of rewriting the rules of the political system. From his perspective, securing his future, evading justice, and paving the path for his return to the Prime Minister’s Office are the most crucial objectives to pursue.

As far as Netanyahu is concerned, governmental stability should only occur after he accomplishes these objectives. In the meantime, Netanyahu has violated unwritten political norms, among them his refusal to resign after being indicted on corruption charges – a far cry from his insistence that former prime minister Ehud Olmert step down when he was indicted.

The current state of affairs endangers the State of Israel and generates a crisis of confidence between the people and their elected officials that worsens with each election cycle.

Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman recently noted that politicians are dragging the Israeli people through a fifth round of elections, and that, looking ahead, it is therefore essential to secure governmental stability in the simplest and most straightforward way possible.

Liberman proposed passing new legislation to boost governmental stability. According to his proposal, the new legislation would adopt the model of the existing Knesset Chairperson Law. According to Liberman’s proposal, instead of the current setup, in which 61 votes are needed to both swear in a Knesset and disperse it, 90 votes would be required to disperse a future Knesset, after the Knesset passes a two-year budget. This legislation would adopt an existing formula and apply it in the Knesset to boost governmental stability. By linking the legislation to the passing of a two-year budget, this maneuver would introduce at least two years of government stability.

This is now the story of these elections. The time has come to stop the merry-go-round.

The writer is a publishing expert at The MirYam Institute. She is a former Yisrael Beytenu MK who was elected to the 24th Knesset. She has served as a deputy local council head and has worked as a journalist and as a senior lecturer in academic institutions for 24 years.