Rassegna Stampa Elezioni Israeliane 2009

Monitoraggio attraverso i media internazionali delle elezioni in Israele del Febbraio 2009

Don’t change system

Posted by claudiacampli su 25 febbraio, 2009

Yedioth Ahronoth

No need to change system of government just because leftist camp lost elections
Shlomo Angel

In the wake of the elections, everyone discovered the problem of governability in Israeli democracy. In Israel, it is apparently very difficult for the elected government to implement policy and rule, and there is almost no government or Knesset that is able to complete a full term in office. We have too many parties around here.

This problem was met with a plethora of proposed solutions, such as a radical change to the system as proposed by Avigdor Lieberman, or like the changes within the existing system proposed by the Israel Democracy Institute.

However, there is in fact no governability problem at all in Israel. Napoleon has been attributed with the saying that he does not fear successful and lazy officers, but rather, terrible yet hard-working ones. We should keep this in mind when we debate changes to the system of government.

The government in Israel has great power; sometimes it is even exaggerated. The most blatant and terrible manifestation of this was of course the expulsion of 8,000 innocent civilians who lived in Gush Katif. They were expelled by the government of Sharon, who served as a terrible yet very hard-working officer and successfully carried out the mission. This move was undertaken by great use of force, without any limitations imposed on it by the Knesset or Supreme Court.

Examining the actions of the outgoing government makes the same thing clear. This government was premised on a relatively solid majority and did almost anything it wanted. It initiated two bloody wars, engaged in indirect peace talks with Syria and direct negotiations with the Palestinians, embarked on Supreme Court reforms, and of course, ran the country’s day-to-day affairs.

The whining over the short terms in office accorded to Israeli governments is exaggerated. The Olmert government did not collapse against a backdrop of coalition problems, but rather, because of criminal affairs. The overwhelming majority of the various Israeli governments managed to survive for more than three years. Indeed, the legislator determined that elections be held every four years, yet this number is not holy. We are not dealing with a situation such as the one in Italy, heaven forbid, where elections are held every two years at least, despite the very many changes made in the elections system there.

In Israeli politics, three years are an eternity when it comes to the burning issues on the agenda. The problems faced by Israel’s leadership are among the most difficult in the world, and therefore it is very important that decisions are taken by agreement of several parties, and not heaven forbid by a one-man decision, as is the case in a presidential system of government.

The survival efforts of every government are part of the checks and balances required in a democratic regime, and even they are not effective enough on occasion in the face of a determined and too-powerful government.

Leftist code-word

Despite the broad public concurrence that Knesset members are motivated by their desire for power, governments were toppled and elections were held here against a blatantly ideological backdrop. The Barak government fell when he decided to make peace at Camp David at any price. Golda’s government fell against the backdrop of the Yom Kippur War, and the first Rabin government because of the Shabbat.

Israeli politics is replete with personal intrigue and schemes, as is the case in any political system in the world; however, when it comes to the essential issues dealt with by the government – the ones that are at the basis of forming and toppling governments – the ideological motives constitute a major component. When a prime minister decides to ignore the ideological red lines of his coalition partners he may lose his job, and that’s a good thing.

Therefore, it is difficult to ignore the sense that the apparent “governability problem” is no more than an internal code-word by the losing leftist camp, which is again complaining that “its country had been stolen.” The Rabin government endorsed the Cairo Agreements, as part of the Oslo Accords, with a one-vote majority, yet it did not sense any governability problems at the time. Yet when the traditional-Jewish majority stops the mad rush of the enlightened minority trying to make peace at any price, again we see the governability problem emerging.

Therefore, Olmert seemingly faced a governability problem by failing to implement the expulsion of 80,000 Jews from their Judea and Samaria homes in the framework of his convergence plan. Netanyahu will have a governability problem for similar reasons should he dare establish a rightist government that will not renew the futile negotiations with the Palestinians.

This governability problem can be resolved relatively easily, should the elected prime minister decide to deal with the issues that do not face polar disagreements, while dedicating most of his energies to economic and social issues instead of to peace agreements and withdrawals. Dealing with these issues will serve to blunt the ideological disagreements that topple governments and enable him to rule for an extended period of time.

Had Netanyahu conducted himself this way in 1998 instead of signing the Wye Accord (which he ultimately did not honor anyway,) his government could have completed its four-year term in office with no problems almost.

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