YES to a unity government, NO to unnecessary ministries

A confession from the outset.

I was and continue to be a supporter of Benny Gantz forming a government together with Benjamin Netanyahu. I believe that with Israel facing an unprecedented medical and economic crisis due to the coronavirus, the country needs a strong, wide-ranging government. I also believe that after a year of ripping each other apart through three election campaigns, the country needs to heal. And that healing can be accomplished through a unity government.

But not THIS unity government. Not a bloated government filled with selfish Knesset members making disgraceful demands.

I agree completely with Benny Gantz’s demand that the ministries be divided 50-50. Unity means equal control between the two blocs that are coming together. But do there have to be more than 20 ministries, simply because Knesset members or former ministers are demanding to be ministers? Simply because they don’t want to be “relegated” to being committee chairs or, God forbid, “just” Knesset members?

TOUGH!

I was blessed to serve as a member of Knesset from 2013-2015. It was a joy to wake up every morning and drive to Jerusalem, enter that magnificent building, and go to work on behalf of the people of Israel. Some days were extremely boring – hours and hours sitting in the Finance Committee or listening to filibusters by the opposition that kept us in session until the early morning hours. Other days were exhilarating, with momentous votes, events or visitors. And most days were just “normal” – working on legislation, meeting with people or organizations needing assistance, debating and voting in committee and the plenary, speaking to visiting groups, and just trying to do my part to make Israel better.

Can there be a greater honor than that?

Only 1,000 people have served as members of Knesset in the history of Israel!

And this “lowly” role is not enough for these elected officials who think they deserve more?

TOUGH!

One of the meaningful moments for me as a Knesset member was when we voted to fulfill one of Yesh Atid’s campaign promises – to reduce the size of the government to around 20 ministries. A state such as Israel simply does not need more ministries than that. Aside from the waste of money, it simply sends the wrong message, and shows that Knesset members care more about their prestige than serving the people. If Switzerland only needs seven ministers, Spain is able to function with 14 ministers, and the United States succeeds with 15 department secretaries, then Israel should not need more than 20 ministries.

Imagine if Netanyahu and Gantz signed an agreement with only the following ministries: Defense, Foreign Affairs (with a deputy minister to deal with Diaspora affairs and combatting BDS), Finance, Education, Economy, Housing, Health, Transportation, Tourism, Agriculture, Immigration and Absorption, Energy, Environment, Interior, and Justice. That’s 15 ministries! What is missing? What else is necessary? Nothing!

And if coalition negotiations require finding five more then so be it.

But 15 more?

That’s absurd and wrong. Each bloc can receive 10 ministries and govern. Enough.

Israel doesn’t need a minister of social equality. That’s why we have a Justice Minister. Israel doesn’t need a minister of the Negev and the Galilee, or a minister of Jerusalem. That’s why we have an interior minister and a mayor of Jerusalem. Israel doesn’t need a minister of religious affairs or a minister of sport and culture at all. And the list goes on and on.

I call on the Likud ministers who are not willing to give up their ministries, or to Likud Knesset members who are demanding to be ministers: for the good of Israel, please stop.

I call on the Blue and White members, most of whom have not spent any significant time in real parliamentary work and yet are demanding to be named ministers: for the good of Israel, please stop.

You were all elected to be members of Knesset. If you don’t want to serve in that position, then please step aside to allow those who would treasure such a position to do so.

The coalition negotiations should be about the platform of the new government, its values, and its vision. Not about ministries. Get back to talking about what matters and what is important to the people of Israel. Then make the necessary compromises and establish this unity government that Israel so desperately needs.

About the Author
Dov Lipman was elected to the 19th Knesset in January 2013. He is the author of seven books about Judaism and Israel, and holds rabbinic ordination from Ner Israel Rabbinical College and a masters in education from Johns Hopkins University. He has been at the forefront of combating religious extremism in Israel and is a leader in efforts to create Jewish unity both in Israel and around the world. Former MK Lipman is invited to speak on behalf of the Jewish state both in Israel and around the world and serves as a political commentator for i24 News and ILTV. He currently serves as Senior Manager - Community Outreach for Honest Reporting.
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