Former Mossad Intelligence Agency Director Meir Dagan spoke in Tel Aviv this week, focusing his remarks on the need to change Israel’s form of government, expressing strong criticism over the number of cabinet ministers and the prime minister’s need to constantly jump to the tune of the small political parties.
He feels that today, “The State of Israel is at a critical juncture posing many challenges on the domestic and foreign fronts and yet the minority groups are controlling the country, silencing the voice of the majority”.
Dagan believes the current system of government is simply not functional since the prime minister is subject to the direct pressure of minority parties, hence influencing policy decisions regarding issues such as an attack against Iran or negotiations with the PA (Palestinian Authority).
Regarding the size of the cabinet, he drew comparisons to the United States and China, highlighting the need to streamline here at home. He added that the countries mentioned are not under existential threats, and the same is true for Israel, discarding those who seem to feel otherwise vis-à-vis Iran’s nuclear program.
Seeking to mimic the American presidential system, Dagan would like to see a prime minister limited to two consecutive terms in office and no more than 16 cabinet ministers. Today’s reality is closer to twice that number. Under this new plan, a prime minister would head the largest party, with a minimum 40% majority, and impeaching him would demand a 61% majority vote in Knesset, seeking to add a measure of stability to the government.
He supports raising the minimum threshold for gaining Knesset seats to 3%, a move supported by a growing number of people who seek to eliminate the smaller parties in the hope of returning to the days when the larger parties ruled in Knesset. Today, the larger parties are simply too small to maintain control without cutting deals with smaller parties. The calls for such reform and the establishment of a constitution are gaining popularity but not among the frum sector, where such a reality would significantly marginalize chareidi influence in government. Alternatively, there are idealists in the chareidi camp who feel such a reality would compel all the frum parties to merge under a unified umbrella that would result in a powerful larger party or significant bloc, unity at last – but they too realize speaking theoretically is far easier than putting such a concept into practice.
Dagan feels that under the current system the prime minister is held hostage by the smaller parties and this has a direct influence on policy-making decision and has resulted in administrations straying off the path. He also wishes to see a system in place by which public approval will be required for the appointment of cabinet ministers, seeking to get away from the back room deal-cutting that exists today as a prime minister seeks to build a coalition strong enough to survive the turbulent waters of Knesset.
Dagan and others are working in the hope of presenting such a bill in Knesset in the future. Another major proponent of a constitution and revamping the current governmental system is Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.
(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)