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Expert: Unity opportunity for real change (JERUSALEM POST) By BEN HARTMAN 05/10/12)Source: http://www.jpost.com/DiplomacyAndPolitics/Article.aspx?id=269298 JERUSALEM POST JERUSALEM POST Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
The new national unity government could be a rare opportunity to bring real legislative progress and stability to Israel, and should not be seen as a threat to Israeli democracy, Dr. Arye Carmon, founder and President of the Israel Democracy Institute told the Jerusalem Post on Wednesday.

“What happened the night before last is an opportunity to bring change that can make Israel more stable, and bring Israel into the OECD as a country with a modern public management system.”

Carmon said the late-night political bombshell means that “we now have an opportunity to deal with many of the ailments facing our society” and that Israel now “has a government that will attain results that represent the demands of the majority of the Israeli public,” without being beholden to the wills of smaller parties.

He said that the decision means Israel will avoid the proposed early elections in September that would have resulted in a government very similar to the pre-national unity government, with the Likud holding around 30 seats and forced to build a coalition with seven parties holding at most 10-20 seats each. This would have meant a continuation of the “survival politics” of coalition parties that result in legislative gridlock, he added.

The Institute itself has drafted proposals for changing the Israeli governmental system with an eye towards , among other things, creating a framework wherein smaller parties exercise less power over the government as a whole. These proposals suggest doing so by raising the threshold to the Knesset from 2% to 4%, which they argue would cut down on the influence of smaller parties.

According to the institute’s proposal “Israeli politics suffers from exaggerated polarization due to the multitude of small, sectoral parties, and the difficulty in forming a coalition damages the stability of the country’s leadership and its ability to carry out policy.”

The proposal also calls for limiting the number of government ministers to 18 from the current level of 28, among other suggestions.

Carmon said if such a plan would be implemented, it would deal a blow to smaller sectoral parties, which would be forced to decide whether to remain on the fringes of the Knesset or move towards joining the larger, more centrist parties. He said that ideally it could create a situation where Israel has a large center-right bloc and a large center-left bloc, as well as voting blocs representing the Arab and Haredi sectors.

For the here and now, Carmon said he doesn’t see “any basis whatsoever” to claims that the unity government represents a sort of “Putinization” of Israel with Netanyahu de-facto Czar-for-life, arguing that not only does Israel remain a democracy, but even with a massive coalition Netanyahu will still face issues such as Haredi IDF conscription and the evacuation of the Ulpana settlement that will require he work with coalition partners strongly opposed to such moves, only that now those smaller coalition partners will have less leverage over the prime minister.

In regard to contentions that new Kadima Chair Shaul Mofaz has struck a blow at democracy by bringing his opposition party into the Likud- led coalition, he said “the people who voted for Livni and Kadima three years ago did not do so because they wanted her to be in the opposition. They chose her to lead the country,” adding that she erred by not joining a coalition with Netanyahu after the last elections.

While the media has spent much of the last two days discussing who stands to lose the most from the deal, Carmon said the main victim of the unity deal is not Yair Lapid or the Labor Party, rather, it is the public’s faith in the country’s political system.

“There is no doubt that the main victim isn’t the opposition, rather, it is the public faith in the political system. But I think this can be improved if this massive coalition will carry out some of the challenges that have been placed upon them.” (© 1995-2011, The Jerusalem Post 05/10/12)

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