Jim Shalom
A semi-retired physician

Israel Cannot Sustain a ‘More of the Same’ Government Much Longer

Polls now show that more than 70% of the public are calling for Prime Minister Netanyahu’s resignation and the government’s replacement despite its Knesset majority. Opposition to the government, which began before October 7th, 2023 with massive protests, has since increased dramatically. The government of Israel was caught by surprise, facing the worst massacre of Jews since the Holocaust along with a multi-front ongoing war. Now, more than six months after that fateful day, neither of the government’s two stated goals of defeating Hamas and procuring the release of the hostages – has even been achieved, with no current success evident on the military or political horizon.

The additional protesters since Oct 7 include swathes of  tens of thousands of  residual evacuees, families of the hostages and of the massacre, families of injured and killed soldiers, along with other Israelis who have lost faith and trust in the present government. Totaling all the challenges, one can convincingly conclude that Israel is currently facing its worse existential crisis since its establishment 75 years ago.

The very future of the country is at stake. One double problem is that the government is both dysfunctional and has the wrong priorities. This conclusion can be established by observing that its priority is to stay in power with Netanyahu at the helm rather than doing what it can for the betterment of the country. Its failure can also be illustrated by the government’s lack of success in almost every endeavor. Here are some salient examples: After more than 6 months of war, there is still an absence of a comprehensive war economy, an effective foreign policy or a political “day after the war ends” plan for Gaza.

There is a significant issue with the suitability of Israel’s electoral system during the present war with numerous potential obstacles. Firstly, should the government resign, the country would require a transitional government with limited authority, even while the war persists, with the formation of a new government only occurring after the election results are established. Secondly, for  any new government to be formed, there may well be a  need to compromise on promoting effective policies for the sake of political accommodation with potential coalition partners, similar to what the Netanyahu government has done. Thirdly, with the country so divided and based on past experience, there is no guarantee that forming a new majority government would be straightforward; a hung parliament is a distinct possibility. The country may well be left with a political vacuum specifically when there is a  current need for optimal coordinated leadership not only in military matters but also in economic, foreign affairs, internal security, and virtually every governing domain.

Consequently, the election route alternative does not appear promising. The standard political paradigm of majority rule by a coalition government in a divided country has failed and is not optimally suited for this desperate multi factorial present predicament.

Is there an alternative to continuing with the present ineffective government or pursuing  the fettered and cumbersome political path to establish a new government?

I believe that these desperate times call for a paradigm shift.

There is a modern precedent for resolving a complex political impasse. Italy offers a notable example of creative problem-solving during a crisis of similar magnitude. In response to its sovereign debt crisis, Italy implemented an interim government comprised of appointed, non-elected officials. Following Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s resignation on November 12, 2011, President Napolitano appointed academic economist Mario Monti as Prime Minister. Monti led a technocratic government for 18 months until the 2013 elections, consisting of un-selected professionals. Under his leadership, Italy achieved a significant turnaround, averting disaster.

Perhaps we could consider a similar approach for Israel which could also avert disaster. The government, along with the opposition, would voluntarily resign, paving the way for an interim technocratic government appointed by President Herzog to govern for 18 months before holding elections. The President would draw on all facets of Israeli society and appoint the “best and brightest” experienced people the country has to offer. He would also appoint a committee of legal experts and other professionals to oversee the interim government’s work and ensure accountability. Israel could opt for an interim government consisting of technocrats, politicians from all political parties, or a blend of both.

This arrangement would allow experienced professionals to run all the various departments, be they Finance and Foreign Affairs and the others. The interim government would not be distracted by coalition partners who prioritize their own narrow needs over those of the country.

Israel is at an impasse and in dire straits. Even a well-functioning government will find it challenging to deal with our enemies, prioritize our goals, manage financially, and unite the country. The “more of the same” present government is likely to continue to be disastrous and continue to lead us nowhere. Alternatively, going through the labyrinth of transition government, elections, possible lack of election majority runs the risk of resulting in an ineffective alternative.

President Herzog is widely respected for his personal integrity and credibility. Despite his political roots in the Labor party, he has a long track record of non-partisan public service, earning a reputation for honesty, transparency, and ethical conduct. His role as president has further enhanced his moral authority and credibility, making him a trusted figure for making important decisions and appointments in the national interest.

Would the current government be open to such an idea? One should not be naive; it is unlikely. Netanyahu and his coalition partners appear convinced that they are doing an excellent job and see no need for a change. They are steadfast in their determination to stay in power. However, if their failures continue to accrue and pressure for change continues to grow, they might be more receptive to a technocratic government than one led by the opposition.

About the Author
Jim Shalom is a specialist in family medicine, with interests in end-of-life care and the Israeli political scene. He resides in Galilee. He has spent most of his adult life living and working in Israel.
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