Democracy is on display in Israel right now for the rest of the Middle East and the whole world to see, and it’s not looking very good. The modified parliamentary system utilized in the Jewish state is one of the best in the world, but its biggest flaw has been rearing its ugly head for the last year as a third election is showing signs that it may still be insufficient to yield a majority government.
The election nearly two weeks ago was supposed to be good news for Likud and current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Unfortunately, their conservative bloc’s apparent victory still fell short of the 61 MKs necessary to form a government. Now, Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz are trying to work with President Reuven Rivlin to negotiate a path forward that does not include a fourth election. What went wrong?
— The Jerusalem Post (@Jerusalem_Post) March 15, 2020
Their system can be confusing to outsiders, particularly here in the United States where our Constitution establishes a clear separation between the legislature and the executive branch. In Israel and other parliamentary systems, the Prime Minister’s position is predicated on majority approval by the legislative branch. In Israel, that’s the Knesset. But the fatal flaw in the system, which has never been seen to this extent in the nation’s history, happens when the various sides are so divided that getting to a proper majority is nearly impossible.
Netanyahu came close. His party won the most seats and his conservative bloc had a strong plurality. But the polarizing Prime Minister has accumulated powerful enemies along the way. Those who have been allies in his past are now his biggest enemies. Gantz himself was once part of Netanyahu’s government as chief of the Israel Defense Forces. But in 2018 he formed a new political party that strives for center-left domestic policies, something Netanyahu cannot accept if he hopes to maintain his coalition that includes far-right and religious parties.
Then, there’s Avigdor Lieberman, leader of Yisrael Beytenu. This right-leaning secular party once participated in Netanyahu’s government, but conflict over religious exemptions for mandatory military service pushed the party to generally oppose the Prime Minister. Now, Lieberman is pushing for Gantz to form the government.
The turmoil on the left is just as vicious. Gantz needs both Yisrael Beytenu and the Palestine-favoring Arab Joint List in order to form a majority government, and that’s almost certainly never going to happen as the two parties are absolutely opposed to each other.
At this point, the only thing that seems likely to work is a unity government in which Netanyahu and Gantz rotate the Prime Minister’s desk. But even with this centrist solution, there are roadblocks within each party on the logistics of such a move. Netanyahu want the first one- or two-years in the role, which is a non-starter for some on the center-left. Meanwhile, conservatives fear massive changes during the window in which Gantz is Prime Minister.
Yes, it’s a mess.
The good news for America is that both Netanyahu and Gantz are supporters of President Trump, his Middle East Peace Plan, and a strong defense for Israel. Regardless of how they sort through their mess, American-Israeli relations should remain solid.
The good news for America is that both Netanyahu and Gantz are supporters of President Trump, his Middle East Peace Plan, and a strong defense for Israel.
Regardless of how they sort through their mess, American-Israeli relations should remain solid. https://t.co/fE4rNSQmn6
— NOQ Report (@NoqReport) March 15, 2020