On Monday, after three elections and five weeks of wrangling, the Jewish state’s leading parties have come together to form a governing coalition, having signed—as is customary—a public written agreement. But the terms the two sides have arrived at, Haviv Rettig Gur argues, are both unprecedented and inimical to smooth governance:
The government’s fundamental structure is shaped by the two alliances led, [respectively], by the incumbent prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and by the erstwhile opposition leader Benny Gantz: the “Likud bloc” and the “Blue and White bloc.” . . . Either can fire a minister from his own bloc, a power usually reserved for the prime minister alone. And neither—even if he happens to be a prime minister—can fire a minister from the other’s bloc.
The government’s most basic structures, its most powerful committees—such as the security cabinet, which has the power to declare war, or the ministerial legislation committee—are divided between the blocs, with each bloc holding an equal number of members. Each side, [moreover], is given sweeping powers to stymie the other side. Gantz and Netanyahu must agree on every item placed on the cabinet’s agenda.
The new government will struggle to function as a coherent organization. With a central policymaking process not only missing but nigh unattainable in the bifurcated “blocs” formalized in the agreement, individual ministries and the ministers who lead them will find themselves free of the kind of mandatory coordination and centralized control that governments can usually impose on their disparate parts. . . . What will the government’s economic policy look like with a finance minister hailing from economically liberal Likud and an economy minister, Labor’s Amir Peretz, who entered politics through the trade unions?
Israel’s 35th government is being billed by Likud and Blue and White as a “unity government,” but it is more likely to be defined by its disunity, and to be overwhelmed from the start by the mutual suspicion and petty politicking that drove the past year’s political deadlock.