The Alternative Government

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Researchers from the Israel Democracy Institute testified before the Knesset's Special Committee: Personal and retroactive changes should not be made to legislation regarding the Prime Minister's legal status; Legislation equating the standing of the 'alternate' prime minister – with the serving prime minister is illegitimate; the amendment of the party financing law is especially for Derekh Eretz (political faction) is also illegitimate.

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Researchers at the Israel Democracy Institute, Dr. Assaf Shapira and Dr. Amir Fuchs, testified at the special Knesset committee discussing the amendment of the Basic Law: The Government (the 'rotation government' clause), and submitted an opinion opposing the changes proposed to laws governing Israel's political process in a manner that creates a new and unique cabinet that has no precedent in Israel or in other democracies.

In their opinion, the researchers note that:

1. Comparing the status of the 'alternate' prime minister to the serving prime minister is an inappropriate act of legislation. Instead of acting to eradicate government corruption, which undermines the fiduciary duty of public representatives, this amendment sends the opposite message.

2. The Knesset should not allow retroactive or personal legislative changes to the legal status of the Prime Minister.

3. The proposed amendment to the Parties Finance Law is improper and encourages faction fragmentation in the Knesset. This amendment clearly serves a specific faction that joins the government - "Derech Eretz". The amendment will allow Derech Eretz to receive funds for current expenses of NIS 250,000 per month, and approximately NIS 9 million in a 3-year term. For its part, the Telem faction loses funding of 2 financing units per month, i.e. about 167,000 a month. Factions that split once in office undermine the stability of the Knesset and the government and impair its functioning, and to a large extent mislead the public.

4. Regarding the shortening the Knesset's term without providing a plausible explanation for this arbitrary decision, Fuchs and Shapira point out that this is a dangerous precedent. A situation in which the political majority in the Knesset, due to polls or any other reason, will decide that the upcoming elections are not suitable and therefore choose to extend the Knesset's term - violates the democratic principle of allowing a change of government, and opens the door to perpetual rule of a specific party or coalition.

5. The existing restriction on the number of ministers and deputy ministers should not be suspended or revoked. Multiple ministers inhibit the efficiency of deliberations and decision-making processes of the government. Expanding the size of the cabinet has led in the past to the establishment of new ministries, whose necessity is questionable, and the lack of MKs who do not serve in the Knesset who are not also members of the government hinder the body's parliamentary work. In most democracies with a population of similar size to Israel, governments include fewer than 19 ministers (see comparison below). Against the backdrop of the economic crisis and recession caused by the coronavirus, the establishment of a government of more than 30 ministers (and many deputy ministers) could seriously undermine public's confidence in the democratic system.

In conclusion, the researchers write: "Personal needs must not dictate Basic Laws that are intended to serve as principled pieces of legislation and guide future parliamentary action. Amending Basic Laws, our quasi-constitution, is not intended to be a substitute for the lack of trust between parties to a coalition agreement."

  Population Number of Ministers (April 2020) Ministers / MPs (%)*** Number of Ministries**
  (in Millions)    
Israel - 19 Ministers* 9.1 19 15.80% 30-31
Israel – 32 Ministers* " 32 26.70% 30-31
Israel – 36 Ministers* " 36 30.00% 30-31
Norway 5.5 20 11.80% 15
Denmark 5.9 20 11.20% 18
Netherlands 17.3 16 10.70% 11
Slovakia 5.4 16 10.70% 13
Ireland 5.2 15 9.50% 16
Finland 5.6 19 9.50% 12
Portugal 10.3 20 8.70% 16
Austria 8.9 15 8.20% 11
Czech rep. 10.7 15 7.50% 14
Sweden 10.2 23 6.60% 12

* Data by Dr. Ofer Kenig