An 18 months unity government now!

Are you afraid of losing the next round of elections? Can’t you match your opponent in qualifications, experience and popularity? Then, disqualify your opponent from running. Welcome to Israel’s democracy!

Lapid, Liberman and Ya’alon, who tried and failed to replace Netanyahu in his post of Prime Minister while they were members of his cabinet, are now trying to use power grabbing of Knesset committees and the passing of a couple of laws to keep Netanyahu from running in the next elections, based on an ephemeral opportunistic majority of 61 votes. Israel may be sinking due to the coronavirus crisis, the economy and the health systems could crash, but nothing is more important for them than eliminating the person who crashed in the past their personal ambitions to replace him and become Prime Minister.

For the good of the country Benny Gantz should accept Netanyahu’s offer for an equal-sharing unity government now, and without any additional opportunistic parliamentary tricks. Given the emergency situation that leads to this necessity, this government should be a limited 18 month unity government, based on a 9-month rotation of the critical posts:  Prime Minister, Defense, Foreign Relations and Economy, and a special arrangement regarding the Justice portfolio. Similar arrangements should be made with respect to the key Knesset committees and the Knesset speaker function. This unity government should represent all the colors of Israel’s society: the coronavirus crisis is an issue that deeply affects everyone, Jews and Arabs, secular and religious. Ordinary citizens will be more willing to sacrifice personal liberties if they feel that they are represented in this government.

Why 18 months? Because this is presently the best estimate for a vaccine to become available and the coronavirus crisis to end.

Netanyahu should be first in the rotation post of Prime Minister to ensure continuity. Netanyahu has been handling the coronavirus crisis in a much better way compared to other Western countries: the mortality rate in Israel due to the coronavirus (a single fatality, an 88 year old Holocaust survivor), is much, much lower than in similar countries like France (860 deaths), Italy (6,077 deaths) and Spain (2,311 deaths), which were hit by the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic. No country in the world was ready for this pandemic.  The response of Israel to this pandemic has been so far outstanding.  A unity government will instill the needed faith in the Israeli public that further actions taken by the government are not guided by narrow politics.  After this 18-month unity government, Netanyahu and Gantz can part ways and call for new elections in which they will present clear alternatives in all the other issues dear to Israel’s society where they are deeply divided in their approach.

This limited-time unity government should also be used to solve a constitutional issue: enact a new law to eliminate the loophole allowing multiple election cycles in a row and the perpetuation of a transition government. Israel is a small country in a tough environment and does not have the luxury afforded to some European countries to function without a proper government for long periods of time.

About the Author
Jaime Kardontchik has a PhD in Physics from the Technion, Israel Institute of Technology. He lives in the Silicon Valley, California.
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