Jaime Kardontchik

Israel is in urgent need of a reset

There were elections in Israel last November 2022. Both sides of the aisle miscalculated and made bad decisions. The results are chaos in the streets, a non-functional Legislature (Knesset), a quite paralyzed Executive branch, and a Judiciary that is being looked at with increasing suspicion by large sectors of the public. Yes, also the Supreme Court crossed the line and added fuel to the fire when it decided a few days ago to hear a petition demanding the ousting of the Prime Minister.

There is urgent need for a “reset.” The present state of the Israeli society is dangerous and, if left unattended, it will become even worse. Small corrections will not be able to change the general direction towards the abyss. “Reset” is an extreme recourse to change course, by restoring the situation Israel was in at a previous time. The same notion exists in computer science, when one tries to “reset” a computer that went awry due to repeated user mishandling (hitting the wrong keys, going to undesirable websites, installing untrustworthy software, and so on.) One “resets” a computer by restoring it to a known safe state it was in a previous defined time, usually, several months earlier.

In Israel, “resetting” the Israeli society to an earlier well-defined state in time, means going back to November 3, 2022, the day that the last general election results became known. So, let us go back in time to November 3, 2022, and ask ourselves: What could be done to avoid being sucked again into the present situation?

There are two possible options:

Option # 1: Kick out the worst offender, the Religious Zionist party (14 seats), and replace it by the National Unity party (12 seats). This gives a coalition with barely 62 seats out of 120 Knesset seats: Likud (32), National Unity (12), Shas (11) and United Torah Judaism (7). A few individual defections may make this coalition unstable or prone to be subjected to egregious faction demands. This is the option being lately floated by a variety of circles in Israel.

Option # 2: The bold solution that I discussed in my previous blog and that I repeat below again with a slight change of presentation order. I would categorize this second option as pure Hertzlian: secular, with a separation of religion from government, and with a strong component of Justice.

And these are the components of option # 2:

Coalition government

The Yesh Atid (24) and National Unity (12) parties have a total of 36 seats in a Knesset of 120 seats. Together with the Likud (32) party, we get a total of 68 seats, a strong majority coalition of secular Zionist parties to govern the State of Israel.

New government duration

No member of the three-party core coalition will support an initiative to dissolve the Knesset during the first 2 years of this government.

Judicial Branch

For as long as the new Israeli government will exist (up to the normal period of 4 years), the Israeli Supreme Court’s future composition and judge selection will be made based on historical existent procedures on November 3, 2022. In simple words: no Judicial Reform will be introduced nor implemented during the time span of this government.

Executive Branch

Benjamin Netanyahu, the leader of the Likud party – the party that received by far the largest number of votes in the last elections of November 2022 – will be the Prime Minister in this new government. Foreign relations are one of the main prerogatives of the executive branch: the Foreign Relations minister will be chosen by the Prime Minister.

Only the Knesset can impeach or remove the Prime Minister. Any objections that the Supreme Court – or for that matter, any other citizen of Israel – could have regarding the Prime Minister’s competence, behavior, decisions, or actions, should be directed to the consideration of the Knesset. The Knesset and only the Knesset will decide what to do with the Supreme Court or a citizen’s request.

The above follows the US presidential model.

Legislative branch and ministries

All the positions in the Knesset usually adjudicated to the government coalition, as well as the ministries (besides the Foreign Ministry) will be distributed between the parties of the coalition and decided in negotiations between the three parties. The principle of proportionality (32, 24 and 12 seats) will be a dominant factor in filling in the positions, giving a slight advantage to the Yesh Atid – National Unity combination.

The above does not exclude the possibility that this coalition will issue invitations to additional parties to join this government, before or after the government is formed – if these invitations are supported in advance by all the three parties of this core coalition of three secular Zionist parties.

What about the coalition’s program?

I do not think that there are significant programmatic differences between these three parties. At least, not essential differences that could impede its functioning.

Netanyahu’s trial

Netanyahu’s trial began in May 2020, three years ago. According to prevalent opinions, the trial may last for another 5-6 years. Until then, the public is requested to be patient, and wait for the decision of the judges of the Supreme Court. Any decision of the Supreme Court judges that could negatively impact Benjamin Netanyahu’s standing as Prime Minister will be deferred and implemented only after the end of the new government. Notice that historically, the average life span of Israeli governments has been only 2 years.

As a comparison with equivalent cases in other democratic countries: in the US and in France, the sitting holder of the Executive power, the president, enjoys total immunity: the Executive holder cannot be charged and even less brought to trial while in office. This avoids a sudden disruption of the functioning of an existing government and makes the social environment stable: neither the public nor the economy want uncertainties and unexpected disruptions in governance.

Who will promote this initiative?

There is presently a legally functioning government with a solid 64 majority in the Knesset. It has already passed a 2-year budget and seems to be solid and unified: at least, all the relevant important votes in the Knesset have shown this.

Hence, the above initiative must come from the two opposition parties, Yesh Atid and National Unity. They must make this initiative theirs, and make it public, and it will be for the Likud party and its leader to decide to take it or reject it.

Why could this work?

I believe that the alternative is the continuation of what we have been seeing in Israel for the last several months. No one wants this and Israel cannot continue in this mode.

No party in this coalition gets everything it wants, but every party gets things it does care very much about.

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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