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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 10/4/19

Israel's Fractured Democracy And Its Repercussions

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This, however, has not come to pass as Netanyahu and Ganz remain divided. Lieberman's offer to enter the unity government discussion between Ganz and Netanyahu to help facilitate an agreement was turned down by Netanyahu, who stated "There is no point in wasting Israel's time. We'll meet and decide [how to proceed] if we see [intentions are] serious."

Israel's proportional electoral system not only has failed to produce a clear winner that can govern with a popular mandate, but in the negotiating process between the would-be coalition partners, there is hardly any discussion about the major issues that face the nation. For example, there is little or no discussion about the conflict with the Palestinians, or how to address the Iranian threat, or what to do with Hamas, along with many other critical foreign and domestic issues, such as the broken healthcare system.

This is essentially a repeat of what happened after April's election. Much of the discussion between the parties centered around the personal ambitions of the leaders involved. Horse trading goes on for days if not weeks as each party's leaders vie for this or that post, regardless of their qualifications.

Failing to form a government, Netanyahu is required to return the mandate back to the President, who may then ask Ganz to try to form a new government. The failure of the latter would precipitate another election -- the third in less than a year. Given the prevailing political conditions, a third election is not likely to produce significantly different results. What Israel needs is an overhauling of its absurd political system, which only encourages the mushrooming of small parties.

To begin with, Israel should raise the threshold to a minimum of five percent, which would eliminate many parties which are unable to pass the threshold. More important, however, is for the right-of-center and left-of-center camps to establish one united party for each camp. As it is, each camp almost always coalesces to create a coalition government. By fashioning Israel's electoral system along the British model, one party or the other stands a much better chance of winning an outright majority.

The big advantage to this system is that all the small parties who no longer stand a chance of passing the increased threshold will opt to support one or the other large parties, ensuring their voices count. The Arab parties (currently united) may opt to remain independent or join the leftist party. This political system does not prevent the rise of one or two smaller parties. Nevertheless, a total of four or five parties makes it much easier to form a coalition government if either of the large parties fail to win the majority of the vote.

To be sure, whereas Israel made tremendous strides in just about all walks of life, Israel's democracy is faltering. After 71 years of existence, the Israelis could not settle on a political system that would avoid these types of impasse, which are economically disruptive while undermining the national security of the state.

This article was originally published in Australian Outlook.

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Dr. Alon Ben-Meir is a professor of international relations at the Center for Global Affairs at NYU. He teaches courses on international negotiation and Middle Eastern studies. His dedication to writing about, analyzing, and (more...)
 

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