The wonders of Israeli democracy

It is now over six months since Israel had an elected government. Netanyahu failed to form a coalition after the April election, and simply called another election in September, giving almost identical results.   On the face of things, this is not a good situation: Surely we need a government? And yet, I feel that the current situation is not that bad. Everything continues to function just as it did, except that no new settlements can be launched. The government can’t make cuts to the health system or reform the education system. We can’t declare war or invade our neighbors. Meanwhile our neighbors are leaving us alone, Either because they are too busy slaughtering each other or because if they do attack, we will immediately form a government and attack them back: Better the devil you know won’t attack, than the one that definitely will.

Netanyahu is quite happy because, officially, he is still Prime Minister and the longer he continues, the more dust he puts between his record as longest serving Prime Minister, and any potential rival (including David Ben Gurion).

The great advantage of democracy is supposed to be that power is transferred peacefully, using ballots instead of bullets. Churchill said it “is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms which have been tried…”. It seems to me that the great strength of democracy is that the government is superfluous: Administration is independent of government and society can carry on functioning regardless of who is in power. In fact the country may be better off with a nice long period of no government at all.

The reason this is happening is that we are all waiting to see if Netanyahu is indicted. Potential coalition partners believe they will get a much better deal if they negotiate with someone else. Except the Orthodox parties of course.

The Economists’s Democracy Index: Dark green = Most democratic / Dark red = Least democratic. Map copied from Wikipedia under
About the Author
Jonathan Lowenstein is an Anglo-Israeli who has lived half his life in England and half in Israel, but has never spent more than a decade continuously in either country. In the 1990's, he helped found the Tel Aviv Bicycle Association, Israel's most successful bicycle advocacy organization, now known as the Israel Bicycle Association. Since 2007 he has edited the History of Israel in Wikipedia. Jonathan has an MA in Political Science from Tel Aviv University and an MA in History from the University of London.
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