Recent research conducted by Tel Aviv University Doctoral Candidate Asaf Becker for “The CECI Forum for Government Stability” (posted in Yediot Aaronot, March 25th), reveals that the current Knesset is the most representative of Israel’s diversified society since the establishment of th State in 1948. That’s the “good news”. The “bad news” is that due to the great number of diversified groups, Israel now has the biggest government cabinet ever, and the wide coalition poses serious challenges to maintaining an effective, stable government. Today, the government of Israel has 30 Ministers and 9 Deputy Ministers; some of the Ministers are even without portfolio.
According to the study, the early years of the Knesset boasted a prolific Ashkenazi hegemony, but in the current Knesset, this has dissipated. Also, Sephardics are no longer a minority; they have gained significant representation in the Knesset, similarly, so have Ultra-Orthodox Jews. In the 1st Knesset, only 3 Ultra-Orthodox Jews were present; in the 9th Knesset, the number had increased to 9. Currently, there are 16 Ultra-Orthodox Jews who serve in the Knesset.
In the first days of the State of Israel, the Knesset was mostly comprised of people not born in Israel. Only 15 MKs who were born in Israel served in the Knesset in 1948. Two decades later, the number had increased to 64 MKs. Today, the number is 86, including Arab MKs.
The female representation in the Knesset has significantly improved since 1948, but it’s still far from representing their real number in the Israeli population. Although, they make up 51% of the population, currently, there are only 23 women. In the 1st Knesset, there were only 12 women, and in the 14th Knesset, there were only 9 women MKs.
Another important ethnic group to note is the Arab sector. In the 1st Knesset, there were only 3 Arabs MKs; in the 9th Knesset, the number had increased to 10. Today, there are 13 Arab MKs. However, considering that the Arab population is almost 20% of the Israeli population, there are many Arabs who are not happy about their representation.
The general consensus is that over the years, there has been improvement in the Knesset’s social representation, but it seems to have come at a “cost”. Becker clearly addresses the problem, “Today, there is more pluralistic representation in the Knesset. However, though we have more social groups represented in the Knesset, it is harder to govern and the Israeli government ends up surrendering to small ethnic groups. No one in the government plans any long-term policies because they would never get to see the final results and someone else would enjoy the benefits.
The current Israeli government system was adopted from the Zionist movement more than 100 years ago. Organizers back then wanted a system that could serve as a “voice” to the entire world Jewry. Today, after 62 years of Statehood, Israel is a “melting pot” of rich diversity with about 7 million people. Indeed today, there is better representation of Israelis in the Knesset with 12 active parties, however, due to the current flawed system, MKs are not accountable to their constituents. This is a serious challenge facing the Knesset. A solution must be found to not only remedy the problem of government instability, a solution must be found to ensure elected officials’ accountability as well.
Below, please find the full article from Yediot Aaronot.