How the Israeli Government’s Instability Paved the Way for an Expansion of Religious and Economic Freedom

July 29, 2021 | Haviv Rettig Gur
About the author: Haviv Rettig Gur is the senior analyst for the Times of Israel.

On Sunday, a Knesset committee will vote on what is known as the arrangements law, a complex piece of omnibus legislation that covers a great swath of government business, and must accompany every biennial budget. Failure to pass it will trigger snap elections and the collapse of the government. Included in the bill are sweeping reforms easing regulations and allowing for more competition in everything from kosher certifications to agricultural products—even as it introduces more regulation in other areas. Haviv Rettig Gur explains why these changes, likely to have salutary effects on the Israeli economy, are suddenly on the table:

These reforms share one characteristic: all have been advocated for many years, but could not advance due to resistance from industry groups, government agencies, or various political factions. Ḥaredi parties stood in the way of taxing sugary drinks and plasticware, while farmers’ and manufacturers’ lobbies resisted the agriculture and import reforms. [So] what explains the sudden uncorking of all that resistance all at once? It isn’t the personalities involved: the reforms are being pushed by different ministers from a broad cross-section of parties.

It may, in fact, be a result of the Bennett-Lapid government’s fragility and instability.

The new government’s ability to advance bold reforms comes not from its leader, but from its lack of one. No single politician dominates this coalition as Netanyahu did its predecessors. It’s a government keenly aware that any of its member factions could topple it at any moment. It is in that sense a more egalitarian cabinet than any in Israel’s history. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and [his main coalition partner] Yair Lapid must cajole and convince; they have too little parliamentary wiggle room to demand or to punish. . . . And, of course, the coalition’s fragility makes each minister and faction all the more eager to be seen achieving major victories quickly.

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