Why Israel’s Constitution Is to Blame for Its Current Political Crisis https://mosaicmagazine.com/picks/israel-zionism/2020/01/why-israels-constitution-is-to-blame-for-its-current-political-crisis/

January 3, 2020 | Neil Rogachevsky
About the author: Neil Rogachevsky teaches at the Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought at Yeshiva University.

Following the elections last April, Israeli politicians were unable to form a governing coalition for the first time in the country’s history; nor were they able to do so after the after the do-over election held in September. Even if the third elections, scheduled for the coming March, have a conclusive result, the country will have gone for more than a year with only a caretaker government. Neil Rogachevsky argues that the impasse results from a flawed political system based on proportional representation (PR), whereby seats in the Knesset are assigned in direct proportion to the number of votes each party receives, and individual Knesset members do not have their own constituencies:

In countries [employing PR], it is next to impossible for one party ever to win an outright majority of 50 percent of the votes plus 1. Thus all governments are necessarily coalition governments. While this may seem to be a recipe for moderation or compromise, the reverse tends to be the case. While post-election compromises are sometimes possible, in the leadup to the vote, parties are incentivized to stick to the hardcore version of their message in order to maintain the allegiance of their natural constituencies. When a party does manage to cobble together a coalition under PR, the resulting government is usually unstable structurally as well as in policy.

Although Benjamin Netanyahu has been prime minister for the past decade, he has, entirely due to the pressures of coalitions, had to surrender vast parts of the “government agenda” to rival parties—religion to the ḥaredi parties, and economics to the populist parties. . . . This is a hardly a recipe for unified, intelligent, coherent government. In PR systems, therefore, “big tent” parties such as they exist in the United States, Britain, and elsewhere are impossible.

Americans, British, and others who have first-past-the-post systems tend to take for granted the benefits of having a specific, named [candidate] who must compete against others to win over a certain jurisdiction and then serve as its representative. This means that citizens know the name of the person they might theoretically call, email, or tweet at if they are bothered or, rarely, pleased by some local or national issue. To be sure, these countries all now suffer from various difficulties that weaken the link and accountability between a representative and the territory/people he or she is supposed to represent. And yet, in such systems, representation is built in.

In PR systems, [by contrast], members of the party are “accountable” mainly to the party bosses, power brokers, and lastly party members who ultimately decide whether those on the list will even get a chance to keep their jobs.

Read more on Tablet: https://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/296112/save-israel-from-another-meaningless-election

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