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PoliticsWorldWhat about Israel makes its government unstable

What about Israel makes its government unstable

Israel is a multi-party parliamentary democracy where the political organisations vary in size, with no party ever getting a majority in Knesset (parliament)

Israel is voting again. This is the fifth time in the last three years that the nation of Jews surrounded by Islamic countries is electing a new Knesset (Israeli parliament). And notwithstanding all allegations of being divisive and corrupt, former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu-led Likud is likely to emerge as the single largest party in Knesset.

Why is Israel voting again?

In April, MP Idit Silman had resigned from Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s purportedly religious Yamina party. He was, in effect, leaving a party that had lost the majority. At that point, Bennett claimed that Netanyahu supporters had “persecuted” Silman “for months… at the most horrific level”. It “broke” Silman, leading to her decision to leave the coalition.

But Silman does not say she was persecuted. She said her resignation owed to the country’s Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz’s instructions, following a verdict by Israel’s Supreme Court, to hospitals to allow visitors to enter the premises with leavened bread during Passover, a Jewish occasion, an act forbidden under the law of Judaism that the country is governed by.

Silman’s leaving left the eight-party coalition in a state of disarray.

How is the democratic setup of Israel responsible for this turn of political events?

Israel is a multi-party parliamentary democracy where the political organisations vary in size, as they do in India, but unlike in India, none of the Israeli parties has ever gets a simple, let alone absolute, majority in Knesset, forcing these parties to make post-poll coalitions to attain the 61-seat majority mark to form the government.

These coalitions tend to be unstable because of varied ideologies of the constituents, as well as interests and even whims of the politicians. The loss of one member’s support, as witnessed in Silman’s case, can bring a government down.

For example, in the case of Silman, her disagreement with policies and decisions of other members of the coalition was not the only factor. There were several instances of internal feud within the alliance for a year, attributable mostly to mutually conflicting ideologies and politicians’ convictions.

What are the issues on which Israel is voting?

The most important one is the inflation rate of 5.2%, causing unbearable price rise for the ordinary citizen.

Second, people believe the government has not handled either the Covid-19 pandemic efficiently or the Russia-Ukraine war judiciously.

Given the predominant Jewish character of Israel, when the government proposed kashrut reform — a set of Jewish dietary laws — and other aspects integral to haredi communities in particular, with an intention to lower food prices, among other measures to make easier for the citizens, the community hated the ‘interference’ in their culture, which successive governments in Israel desisted from.

Then, domestic security is always an issue, with Israelis and Palestinians living cheek-by-jowl in the geographically small landmass. Israel’s maritime border pact with Lebanon is an election issue too.

How do observers predict the outcome of this election?

Reuters reported on 28 that opinion polls suggest Netanyahu would come close to a clear majority. However, Israel’s longest-serving leader, embroiled in a trial for alleged corruption that he denies, has views so extreme that other Jewish leaders feel uneasy allying with him, keeping the simple majority mark elusive for Likud.

But then, if Netanyahu does not sound extreme right, his Likud is unlikely to get close to the majority mark. This conundrum may throw up another unstable coalition post-election.

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