“Has Israeli democracy been broken, given what we have seen over the past few years?” asks Yohanan Plesner, president of the Israel Democracy Institute, a research group in Jerusalem. No, he said, it was “defective but not broken”, and for that he acknowledges the professionals of the civil service who kept it going.
But if the system has not yet been broken, it is deep in malfunction.
Despite the extraordinary cost of the pandemic, parliament did not pass a state budget for 2020 or 2021, which forced government agencies to go month to month. Cabinet meetings have been postponed or canceled due to disputes within the coalition, and the cabinet’s approval of critical foreign policy decisions has sometimes been completely circumvented. Important government positions remain unfinished. The executive is at war with the judiciary.
And the prime minister, who denies the charges against him and dismisses the prosecution as a coup attempt, is trying to run the country, even while on trial.
For his critics, Mr. Netanyahu caught the country in an election light for one main reason: to win enough seats in parliament to enable him to change the law and circumvent his court case.
This time, he is accused of sabotaging the budget negotiations to overthrow the coalition government and launch the election next week. The action increased a power-sharing agreement that Benny Gantz, Mr. Netanyahu’s centrist coalition partner would allow him to replace him as prime minister this autumn.
The maneuver was reminiscent of one that Mr. Netanyahu stepped down three elections ago, in May 2019, when he led a push to dissolve parliament and start a new election cycle. The move prevented President Reuven Rivlin from killing Mr. Gantz to give the opportunity to form a coalition that Mr. Netanyahu could be removed from power.
“He basically needs a majority to avoid the lawsuit,” he said. Plesner said, “and until he achieves this majority, this crisis will continue.”