To End This Endless Cycle of Elections: Adopt the US Model

Who didn’t see this coming?

March 2nd came and went, the polling station results are in, and as predicted, the overall political landscape remains unchanged. As we watch carefully, hopefully, that the politicians will finally come together to form a coalition and run this country, the party heads remain obstinate in their declarations refusing to give ground even as they promise that this time the outcome will be different.

It is clear that the majority of the Israeli electorate wants Benjamin Netanyahu to remain prime minister. Polls prior to this election indicated this fact, and the elections putting the Likud party at 36 seats — 3 higher than it’s closest competitor — prove it. Yet somehow, the Israeli electorate is stuck in uncertainty once again. Will the different parties finally come together to form a coalition and ruling government?

And so I ask, why do we need a coalition? Let us adopt the system of the USA. Not its entirety. Certain facts on the ground prevent the Israeli state from adopting the American system wholesale. But the parts that matter we can certainly adopt. Let us get rid of the coalition run government.

* * *

Somehow, the State of Israel has managed to sell the Israeli public a myth that this country has 3 branches of government: The Knesset is Israel’s legislative branch, the High Court is the independent judiciary branch, and the governmental coalition is the executive branch in Israel.

Of course, this is flawed thinking; a cognitive error.

Legislation in Israel requires a minimum 61 seats of the 120 seats in the Knesset, the same majority required to form a government coalition. It is dishonest to try and claim that the coalition holding the reigns of power in legislation, is a separate branch of Israeli governance.

Further, as we see from these elections, the system funnels the power of Israeli elections to Israel’s politicians, not the public. If the politicians do not like the results the Israeli populace give them, they simply call a do-over until they get what they want.

This is far beyond the simple machinations of politics, it is elitism at its worst. These are politicians who ignore the obvious will of the populace for their own desires and ambition. And to add insult to injury, the politicians are able to silence sects of the population by cutting off small parties through increasing the threshold for viability. This can hardly be called “Democracy” or even a “Republic.”

* * *

The American system would solve these problems. 3 branches of government, each with separate powers and responsibilities, would be formalized and elected into office separately and with no coalition necessary.

The Legislative Branch, the Knesset, would be elected into office in exactly the same fashion as it is done today. However, there would be no haggling over formation of a coalition. All members of the Knesset would remain for the entirety of the term. As a whole unit, it would be their responsibility to form a budget, pass laws, and any other responsibility where discussion is desired. This has the added benefit of making a minimum threshold to enter the Knesset unnecessary and give even the smallest minority a voice in the Knesset. Mobility of parties to grow and shrink depending upon what voters see them putting into action would give politicians a level of responsibility to the voters that currently exists in only a much diminished faction. After all, today a voter must wonder not just whether he supports a party ideology, but if that party will cross the threshold.

The Executive Branch, the Prime Minister, would be elected separately – without affiliation to a party. He would have the responsibility to enact the will of the Knesset, form a cabinet, and make decisions where alacrity is imperative. He’d have the ability to form foreign policy, fight Israel’s wars, possibly a veto power that could be overridden by the Knesset, suggest Judges to be nominated to the courts, and not much else. 

The Judicial Branch, chosen in a way that represents the will of the people, would be tasked with clarifying disagreements that will inevitably arise between the other 2 branches. However, where the other 2 branches are in agreement, the Judiciary would need to be subserviant to their will. No longer would judicial activism have the excuse that they are the only voice speaking on behalf of the minorities.

* * *

“Ahh,” but you ask, “Israel has already tried separate voting for Prime Ministers. It didn’t work then. Why should it work today?”

To this I answer, “What was tried then was different.” The separation of the Prime Minister from the Knesset has no effect on its own. in the 1990’s the Prime Minister still had a party to run and a coalition to form.

There was no separation of powers. It was impossible to see where the Prime Minister began and the Knesset ended. Parties still dissolved the government and nothing was gained. The purpose of the separate Prime Minister election in my proposal is ancillary to the dissolution of the requirement to form a government by coalition. It’s the formation of a true separation of powers. The focus, therefore, should not be on the separation of the tickets for party and Prime Minister, but on what the Knesset would do once the politicians are forced to accept the results of the Israeli electorate.

The result would be a Prime Minister, Knesset, and Judiciary subservient to the will of the people; no longer the reverse.

P.S. Ideally Israel would adopt a district based model sometime in the future with direct representation for each member of the Knesset. This is ideal because suddenly each political member would truly be subservient to the will of the people for each election means a likely shakeup of the Knesset. If a Knesset member is seen by his voters as not doing his or her job, he or she would be voted out. Actions meet consequences. In this essay, however, I seek a minimum viable product to best serve the interests of the nation: the minimal changes to achieve the most drastic positive change.

About the Author
Meir received a BA in Political Science from Lander College for Men and an MA in Politics and Government from Ben Gurion University of the Negev. He a recent Oleh who loves Israel: faults and all.
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