A modest proposal for the next Israeli elections

It seems close to absurd to be writing from the United States about how to fix a problem governing a country. But I am an Israeli citizen as well, and have been wavering between chagrin and dismay watching the give and take in creating a government after what feels like the 71st attempt at forming a working parliamentary majority. Is this the time for such rancorous maneuvering at the expense of governing the country while there’s a crisis?

Now that (I hope!) a government is being created, I don’t suppose Israel wants to relive such a process again anytime soon. Is anybody given thought on how to avoid it? Or is everybody happy with the way things are working?

I have a simple solution. One that I think can prevent getting to the point of the country being crippled by having to undergo 613 attempts to create a government. I mean, I do understand why people would like more days off. But still, really, don’t you need a budget to break and abuse? Something to keep industry taking advantage of rules, and agencies making everybody crazy? Or, more seriously, even a way of making sure that the sick and elderly are taken care of? Of course you do.

So here it is:

If after two elections no group can form a government, the president becomes prime minister for at least 15 months. He stays prime minister for that time, even if there is a vote in the Knesset that goes against him. This makes sense, as the president is the representative of the dignity of Israel. Although he once was a politician, he is now more than that. He is there to keep the country unified, keep the country able to deal with the world outside with some confidence that he won’t be gone tomorrow, and to prevent the disruptions and anarchy that potentially follow 600,000 elections. Everybody would be relieved except for the politicians.

My hunch is that knowing that this will happen if a government isn’t formed after the second election is likely to motivate the different parties to come to an agreement before the president takes over. It motivates simply because each party knows that they cannot run the agenda that they wish for at least 15 months. Maybe compromising sooner will help achieve some of their goals, if not all. If they can’t, tough luck.

Knowing also allows for other positive and responsible initiatives. I don’t think I need to list them at all, any sensible reader can imagine benefits. Some might actually be real.

You might worry about a president actually having power. It’s probably better than what just happened in Israel.

But a president in the United States? That could be dangerous.

About the Author
Rabbi Moshe (Marvin) Simkovich is a professional development coordinator and consultant for the Associated Talmud Torahs, ICJA, and teaches at the Melton Institute in the Chicago area. He was the founding Head of School and Dean of Judaic Studies at Stern Hebrew High School in Philadelphia (now Kohelet YHS), and taught for many years at Maimonides School in Boston. He also served as the rabbi of Congregation Shaarei Tefilla in Newton, MA, and was the Orthodox advisor at Brandeis University. A graduate of the University of Chicago, he received his semicha under the direction of Rabbi Moshe Meiselman, and, among others, studied under Rabbi Yisrael Gustman zt"l.
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