Stability rules

Israel Democracy Institute VP claims coalition deal with Kadima is "dangerous" - Why?

Netanyahu looks up in Knesset_370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
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 Mofaz.
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.”
The 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 Nicolae Ceausescu.
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.
Israel Democracy Institute vice president Mordechai Kremnitzer claimed that the “mammoth” coalition created as a result of the incorporation of Kadima was “dangerous.”
Why would Kremnitzer, a proponent of stable governments that live out their days, be opposed to the deal? And why would he consider it dangerous?
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 do.
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 out.
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 replaced.
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.