Jaime Kardontchik

Netanyahu, Lapid and Gantz should form a new government–now

Israelis experienced a big sigh of relief yesterday: They woke up hearing the news that Yair Lapid, the leader of the main opposition party, is a decent man. [news diligently reported by Eliav Breuer, published by the Jerusalem Post, July 31, 2023].

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.

And … Yair Lapid is a decent man.

Democracies are a very fragile institution: Only a few countries in the world have this form of government. Parliamentary democracies in a multi-party system are based on coalitions. These democracies cannot subsist in the long run when leaders of large parties – under all kinds of moral pretexts and pretenses – boycott other large parties that share similar political platforms: Fringe parties or a few Parliament members with extreme ideological positions become then kings and drag the whole country to the undesirable place it is now.

Political leaders are not required to be sacred priests. They are requested to be politicians – read the political map that resulted from the last November 2022 general elections in Israel as it is – take bold decisions, and lead the country to a better place from where it is now today.

The bold decision that Yair Lapid and Benny Gantz – the leaders of the two main opposition parties Yesh Atid and National Union – should adopt is pure Hertzlian: secular, with a separation of religion from government, and with a strong Justice system in place.

And these are its components:

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 2022, when the last Israeli elections were held. 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. 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.

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.

Who will promote this initiative?

Let us be realistic: 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, make it public, and propose the Likud party and its leader to adopt it as well.

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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