A simple solution for the logjam in Israel

The Israeli political system has gotten a real stress test in the last half a year.  Designed to provide governance by consensus, the law demands that the prime minister–to-be must have the confidence of the majority of parliamentarians to form the government.  The Israeli Knesset having 120 members, thhe support of 61 of them is needed for anyone aspiring to lead the country.

To make such a system work, compromise is needed.  Needless to say, parties try to sell themselves as high as they can; they try to get a ministerial post for each of their parliamentarians, and they demand, in return for their support, that the budget reflect their priorities and fund projects dear to their supporters.  But normally, there is a give-and-take.  After all, they do want to be in the government, and so they negotiate.  Going for the stars and settling for the moon is their modus operandi.

This time around, however, this kind of politicking is gone.  The cry seems to be "everything or nothing."  Pointing out that ultra-orthodox parties, in return for their support, demand that their constituents be able to sit in yeshivas and study the Torah rather than work and serve in the army, thus requiring the government to expend huge sums in welfare payments that maintain their lifestyle, the party led by Avigdor Lieberman refuses to perpetuate the arrangement, which it sees as unfair, come what may.  They refuse to join the government that succumbs to what they see as ultra-Orthodox extortion.  The other party, called Blue and White, refuses to join the government led by a person under potential indictment, Benjamin Netanyahu.

How to resolve this logjam?

I don't think negotiations among the parties would help — Israel had an election half a year ago in April, and parties did not budge, leading to the present election that produced essentially the same outcome.  The logjam has to be fixed from a different direction.

Which?  I think that Israel's attorney general has to give a good deal of thought on whether to indict Netanyahu.

I don't know all the charges against him, but he apparently got a case of pink champagne and cigars from an American admirer.  He is embroiled in what is called a "submarine affair" — a military procurement scandal.  He is accused of demanding favoritism in coverage from a newspaper in return for some regulatory help.

Sure, it feels fine to be upright and principled, but sometimes, to achieve one's goals, one has to compromise.  I don't know about the submarines (I think one of key witnesses is no longer willing to testify), but drinking free champagne, smoking free cigars, and wanting fawning press coverage make for behavior that should not be unexpected in politicians.  Vice President Joe Biden's son and then-senator Barack Obama's wife got sweet deals in the form of high-paying, low-effort "jobs" in Ukraine and Chicago, respectively, compared to which any number of cigars or bottles of champagne are just pennies.

It would be wise for Israel's attorney general to consider such comparisons and be a little more pragmatic.  If Netanyahu's indictment is off, the biggest logjamming formation of the government will get removed, since the Blue and White Party with its 33 seats will no longer have a reason not to sit in government with Netanyahu's Likud.  Thinking of what is at stake for the country, and comparing it to what are, in the end, trifling misdeeds should help  Israel's attorney general do the right thing — and undo the logjam of his own making.

The Israeli political system has gotten a real stress test in the last half a year.  Designed to provide governance by consensus, the law demands that the prime minister–to-be must have the confidence of the majority of parliamentarians to form the government.  The Israeli Knesset having 120 members, thhe support of 61 of them is needed for anyone aspiring to lead the country.

To make such a system work, compromise is needed.  Needless to say, parties try to sell themselves as high as they can; they try to get a ministerial post for each of their parliamentarians, and they demand, in return for their support, that the budget reflect their priorities and fund projects dear to their supporters.  But normally, there is a give-and-take.  After all, they do want to be in the government, and so they negotiate.  Going for the stars and settling for the moon is their modus operandi.

This time around, however, this kind of politicking is gone.  The cry seems to be "everything or nothing."  Pointing out that ultra-orthodox parties, in return for their support, demand that their constituents be able to sit in yeshivas and study the Torah rather than work and serve in the army, thus requiring the government to expend huge sums in welfare payments that maintain their lifestyle, the party led by Avigdor Lieberman refuses to perpetuate the arrangement, which it sees as unfair, come what may.  They refuse to join the government that succumbs to what they see as ultra-Orthodox extortion.  The other party, called Blue and White, refuses to join the government led by a person under potential indictment, Benjamin Netanyahu.

How to resolve this logjam?

I don't think negotiations among the parties would help — Israel had an election half a year ago in April, and parties did not budge, leading to the present election that produced essentially the same outcome.  The logjam has to be fixed from a different direction.

Which?  I think that Israel's attorney general has to give a good deal of thought on whether to indict Netanyahu.

I don't know all the charges against him, but he apparently got a case of pink champagne and cigars from an American admirer.  He is embroiled in what is called a "submarine affair" — a military procurement scandal.  He is accused of demanding favoritism in coverage from a newspaper in return for some regulatory help.

Sure, it feels fine to be upright and principled, but sometimes, to achieve one's goals, one has to compromise.  I don't know about the submarines (I think one of key witnesses is no longer willing to testify), but drinking free champagne, smoking free cigars, and wanting fawning press coverage make for behavior that should not be unexpected in politicians.  Vice President Joe Biden's son and then-senator Barack Obama's wife got sweet deals in the form of high-paying, low-effort "jobs" in Ukraine and Chicago, respectively, compared to which any number of cigars or bottles of champagne are just pennies.

It would be wise for Israel's attorney general to consider such comparisons and be a little more pragmatic.  If Netanyahu's indictment is off, the biggest logjamming formation of the government will get removed, since the Blue and White Party with its 33 seats will no longer have a reason not to sit in government with Netanyahu's Likud.  Thinking of what is at stake for the country, and comparing it to what are, in the end, trifling misdeeds should help  Israel's attorney general do the right thing — and undo the logjam of his own making.