It is time for electoral reform in Israel

Small or sectoral parties would no longer be able to hold a gun to the prime minister’s head, and the interests of the majority of the Israeli public.

THE HEAD OF the party that received the most votes should be declared prime minister.  (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
THE HEAD OF the party that received the most votes should be declared prime minister.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Elections have been coming one after the other so quickly that nobody remembers exactly when we last went to the polls, and soon we’ll be going again. Each time when the results come in, it turns out that nobody won, and once again we’re stuck with a government that can’t function, and yet we’re already on our way to the next election campaign.
It seems obvious that the system has to change. If anyone still had any doubts, the political lunacy of the past two years should have convinced them.
What is it that we need? We need to know the morning after elections who we woke up with. That’s a serious question. Once the votes are counted, two parties shouldn’t be able to claim the win. There has to be one clear winner. We need a system that ensures stability, with elections every four years – no less, no more.
For those four years, the party in power has to be able to govern. It can’t be subject to extortion, as it is in the current system whereby each party submits its recommendation for prime minister to the president. It’s a lousy system whose rotting fruit we have been eating every day for years.
How can we improve it? The head of the party that received the most votes should be declared prime minister. He or she would hold office for four years, and should only be able to be unseated by a special majority and alternative government. If the budget isn’t approved, the government would continue to operate on the basis of the previous budget, but it wouldn’t fall.
Such a system would guarantee stability and the mandate to govern. There would be no need to form a bloc of parties to recommend a certain candidate for the position of prime minister, as his or her identity would be known as soon as all the votes were counted.
Small or sectoral parties would no longer be able to hold a gun to the prime minister’s head, and the interests of the majority of the Israeli public – the citizens who serve in the army, work and pay taxes, and bear the brunt of the national burden – would not be undermined.
And since we’re putting things right, let’s go all the way. As part of the electoral reform, a limit should be placed on the term of office. It isn’t healthy for the country, or for the person in power, if that person holds their position for too long. One of the hallmarks of a democratic system is that the government changes.
Someone is elected, works hard on behalf of the public for four years, and if the citizens are pleased, keeps on doing it for four more years. And that’s it. That’s enough.
The reform would be good for the country, would represent the will of the majority of the people, and would even benefit the large parties.
By its very nature, it would lead to the consolidation of two dominant parties, and that’s a good thing. When a government is formed, it would be able to function, and the prime minister, whoever he or she is, could devote their full attention to state business, instead of spending most of their time on efforts to assure their political survival.
After each of the last three elections, the Likud and Blue and White could have implemented this vital reform. Together, they held 65-70 seats in the Knesset.
Not doing so means putting party interests ahead of those of the country. As a general rule, when personal matters overshadow national issues, it’s time to go. Even the great Winston Churchill, with so much to his credit, realized in 1955 that his own problems were occupying too much of his time, and he resigned. That’s an important lesson for any politician.
   
Translated from Hebrew by Sara Kitai. skitai@kardis.co.il