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Jaime Kardontchik

Let us try the impossible: An Israeli reset

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

The 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.

All the above follows the US presidential model.

The Judicial Branch

In the US, nine Supreme Court judges form the court. When a vacancy of the Supreme Court opens, candidates to fill-in the opened position are selected by the President and their candidacy is approved or rejected by a Senate vote.

In Israel, the Supreme Court composition and nomination procedure are very different from the US, and are presently a highly contentious issue. The present nomination procedure gives, in practice, extra weight in the nomination of future members of the Supreme Court to its present members, perpetuating the “ideology”, if any, of its present members. The “reset” means that, 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. In simply words: no Judicial Reform during the time span of this government.

The 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 government’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.

The 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.

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. In other words, in this sense, Israel gives more weight and importance to the Judicial branch, compared to the Executive branch. This is another item that could be part of a Judicial Reform package in future governments to make it similar as in the US and France, and less politicized and disruptive of the functioning of an existing government.

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.

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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