David Benjamin

Time for Majority Rule

The first principle of Democracy is majority rule, but let’s face it, although it was elected fair and square, our current government doesn’t represent the majority of Israelis. It’s not even close.

The majority of Israelis are political moderates whose views fall somewhere on the scale between centre-right and centre. This is a trite fact, but if one needs convincing, the last election results show this clearly: Likud (Centre-right) 23.41%, Yesh Atid (Centre – Centre-Right) 17.79%,  HaMachaneh HaMamlachti (Centre-Right) 9.08%, Yisrael Beitenu (Centre-right) 4.48%. This makes up 54.76% of the votes cast. Further proof is the ease with which politicians move between the factions. To keep it simple, Avodah, which self-identifies as belonging to the Left, has been omitted although many of its voters are arguably centrists. There is also an undefined number of religious moderates who voted for religious parties.

Based on the above, one can safely surmise that around 60% of Israelis hold very similar political views.

Why then, are we so divided?

Why don’t we have a large centre-right coalition governing our country?

Consider this partial list of what such a government could achieve:

  1. It could appoint a “Dream Team” cabinet since it would have an “embarrassment of riches” in people who are eminently suited to high decision-making posts.
  2. It could draw on the incredible strength, talent and motivation of a united people to cope effectively with all threats to our security.
  3. It could advance constitutional reform based on broad agreement.
  4. It could deal effectively with pressing issues of day-to-day governance (transportation, healthcare, education, housing, law-enforcement, etc.).
  5. It could calm the jitters of worried investors.
  6. Israel could have excellent relations with its friends and allies, first and foremost, the USA.
  7. Israel could enhance its connections with diaspora Jewry.
  8. It could continue building and strengthening ties and peace initiatives with other countries.
  9. It could effectively fight efforts at delegitimisation, BDS and Lawfare.
  10. Maybe, just maybe it could advance a solution for peaceful coexistence with our Palestinian neighbours?

A large centre-right coalition could bring in other partners too, but their influence would be limited in keeping with the actual support they enjoy among the public.

So what is preventing this obvious good from coming to pass?

Incredibly, it all boils down to one individual – Benjamin Netanyahu. Support for and opposition to this individual are the only obstacle to establishing a true majority government.

So how can we move forward?

There are two options:

The first is for Mr Netanyahu to step away from politics. It is not enough if the current coalition falls, since another election with Mr Netanyahu at the helm of the Likud will most likely only perpetuate the current divisions.

The other option is for the centre/centre-right parties currently in opposition to form a coalition with a Netanyahu-led Likud. For Mr Netanyahu and his supporters, this is an excellent option. It mainstreams Netanyahu and allows him to shine.

For Mr Netanyahu’s opponents, the idea would be extremely hard to swallow. The first problem is principled opposition to Netanyahu on account of the corruption charges he faces. Any coalition agreement with Netanyahu would have to address this issue. A possible solution could be to suspend his trial until after he completes his term. The second problem is a deep-seated mistrust in Netanyahu on the part of the current opposition. If it’s any consolation, this mistrust is common to Netanyahu’s coalition partners too. A third problem would be a profound reluctance to grant Netanyahu any kind of political triumph. On this score, it’s better to be smart than to be right.

Option one is wishful thinking for those who want to see the back of Netanyahu. He isn’t going anywhere.

That leaves option two. No doubt a distasteful direction for Netanyahu’s opponents, but considering the alternatives, it may be the least bad option.

It would also mean that for a change, we would actually have a majority government.

About the Author
David Benjamin is a Rabbi, international lawyer and former senior officer in the IDF Military Advocate General's Corps.