Israel Needs Election and Governmental Reform Now

Israel has grown into a world power in a comparably short period of time despite constantly fighting for its survival against much larger odds on the geo-political stage or in actual warfare.

The “nation building” was important (and successful) but it was rushed with just enough for what was necessary. Most Western European and North American countries had either the luxury, time, money, peace, and/or focus, to build well thought out and scalable political infrastructures. Israel now needs to take that time and thoughtful approach.

The Knesset must put forth changes to maintain a national coalition that can last an elected term, as well as deal with the national divisiveness over “judicial reform” that ended abruptly on 7 October 2023. Both issues are poised to return once a new election date is declared, or the coalition unity is threatened.

Let’s simplify a complicated topic by focusing on two key areas: One: Separation of Powers and Two: Regional Representation.

Separation of Powers. This is a fundamental principle in many democracies. It helps ensure a balanced, fair, and functional system of governance. Israel follows a parliamentary system of government with a framework that features some elements of Separation of Powers, but they are often more interconnected than in other systems that have stricter separations.

As you read the list of benefits, think of the Israeli Government. Separation of Powers: Prevents Concentration of Power, Promotes Checks and Balances, Ensures Accountability, Encourages Deliberation and Debate, Safeguards Individual Rights, Facilitates Adaptability and Stability, as well as Enhances Legitimacy and Public Trust.

Therefore, the Separation of Powers is a cornerstone of democratic governance. It creates a system where power is distributed, accountability is ensured, and individual rights are protected. It promotes a more transparent, adaptable, and resilient government that is better able to serve its citizens. This prevents the concentration of power in one branch or entity, promoting checks and balances, accountability, and the rule of law.

Some countries that implement the Separation of Powers in their governmental systems:  United States, Canada, Australia, India, Brazil, Germany, and the United Kingdom.

The Knesset should not be both the Legislative and Executive branches. It is not practical or effective for one group to make and enforce the laws. This is also an issue for the Judicial branch.

Continuing on the theme of “Separation of Powers,” the Judicial branch needs three simple changes:

  1. New judges should be added to the Supreme Court on the recommendation of the Executive branch (Prime Minister or President) and approval of a Knesset sub-committee. This allows for justices to be representative of the electorate and a closed network.
  2. The Court can only rule on cases brought before it and not arbitrarily decide to take on a case.
  3. The Court should not be able to change or rewrite the law. That is the job of the Knesset acting as the Legislative branch. The Court should rule only if the law is constitutional or not.

Oh yeah, Israel needs a constitution and an amendment process based on a people’s referendum. David Ben-Gurion promised one. But that is a whole other article and discussion.

Local Representation. The Israeli population continues to grow in numbers and originations as it spreads out from the mircaz (the center) of the country. The elected party representatives in the Knesset are rightly focused on national and international issues. However, even though Israel is small in area – we are big in diversity, including terrain, security, economic opportunities, population density, ethnicity, etc. Attention must be paid to our individual and regional needs.

The needs of Israelis who live up north are different than those who are in the “Gaza envelope,” or the Negev, or Tel Aviv. Those differences and needs range from infrastructure to schools to transportation to security, and more.

According to the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs: “The law recognizes three types of local authorities: municipalities, which provide the framework for urban centers; local councils, which manage towns; and regional councils, which are responsible for several villages grouped within a certain radius. The number of council members is determined by the Ministry of the Interior, according to the authority’s population. Currently there are 73 municipalities, 124 local councils and 54 regional councils.”

Where is one’s local representation to the national government? How do we fix this lack of attention towards regional needs? Here are two different suggestions.

One. Allocate to regional representatives one seat for each Mo’atza (Regional Council) from the current 120 seats of the Knesset. As of 2019, there are 54 Ma’atzot Ezoriyot in Israel. There might be a need to increase the total seats so there is a balance between party allocation and regional allocation of seats.

Two. Create another (parallel) legislative body whose members are regional representatives. Currently, the Knesset is defined as “unicameral” – a single legislative or parliamentary chamber. Perhaps it is time for Israel to be “bicameral” and have another legislative or parliamentary chamber?

This is not a new idea. America has a Senate and Congress that make up two Houses of the Legislative branch. The British Parliament functions in two Houses: The House of Commons and the House of Lords. The Parliament of Canada has two chambers: the Senate and the House of Commons. Even Russia is bicameral with an upper house and lower house.

Unlike the current Knesset structure that is based on party mandates, a new second house should be based on regional representation. A formula could be developed that takes into consideration the ratio of population to land mass. This would ensure that representation is proportional and fair. A new Legislative house with a bias towards regionality will develop and promote laws that support the unique needs of the varied regions of the country.

One more thing…

Electoral threshold. The electoral threshold is the minimum share of votes required to obtain representation in the Knesset. The current minimum electoral threshold is 3.25%. Compared to similar types of governments around the world, it is too low. Raising the threshold in Israel has been done before, most recently in 2004 and 2014.

A higher threshold would create larger political clusters and fewer fractional parties, making it easier to form lasting coalitions. The optimal number should be modeled by experts but should probably be around five percent.

Most Israelis, no matter their political persuasion, agree that the current system is not working as smoothly as it should. Multiple elections due to “no confidence” or no majority coalition is embarrassing, and agonizing, let alone totally inefficient. Raising the electoral threshold could fix that. Separating the branches of government and adding a regionally biased house of representatives would better serve all Israeli citizens.

It is time for the country of Israel to grow up and mature into the great nation it can be.

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About the Author
David is a former NYC advertising agency, corporate-side marketing executive, and consultant. Prior to his career in advertising David spent 5 years in the financial arena. David holds a BS and MBA (both in Marketing & Finance) from New York University. He has been an officer/board member/speaker of industry, educational, and community organizations, as well as several new business startups. David is a US Patent Holder and published author (Hey Israel – You’re Perfect. Now Change (free) and How to Run the Business of YOU). See his website for more information and other writings. David is a retired instructor from Rutgers University School of Communication & Information. He lives in Ashkelon, Israel with his wife and is an active volunteer with the Ashkelon Search and Rescue.
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