Government and Politics in Israel PLS 389N- JUST 386B Fall 2011 (An undergraduate intermediate level course) Professor: Dr. Maoz Rosenthal Email: firstname.lastname@example.org@binghamton.edu Office: LNG 90 Phone: 607-777-3260 Class Meeting: MWF 8:30-9:30 Class Location: SL 210 Office Hours: M 10:00-12:00
Course Structure The course main question: Is Israel a democracy? The challengers: 1. Israel is an ethnic democracy (Smooha) 2. Israel is an ethnocracy (Peled, Shafir, Yiftachel, Ghanem) Israel: Liberal contested democracy (Dowty) becoming minimal with an increasing crisis of governance Israel’s Public Opinion and Social Cleavages Political Players: Political parties Political Institutions: (non) Constitution, Courts, Electoral Method (and behavior), Parliament Political Coalitions and Policy: Israel’s Crisis of Governance What is the value of studying a case of a distant and different country? (Gerring)
What do we need to do? The final grade will be divided as follows: 15% Participation 20% Critical Reading 1 20% Critical Reading 2 20% Group Project 25% Final Exam These are the dates of the assignments' submission: September 30 th Critical Reading Assignment No. 1 November 11 th Critical Reading Assignment No. 2 December 2 nd Group Project Dates of submission are final and any delay in submission not prearranged with me will yield a zero grade for the assignment.
Critical Reading Choose one of the research papers (NOT BOOK CHAPTERS) studied by that point of the course in which submission is due. Present its main research problem and the way it studies that problem. If it is a quantitative empirical paper, present its research question, concepts, measurement, hypotheses and findings. If it is a qualitative paper present its main themes, narrative, method of analysis and insights. If it is a theoretical deductive paper present its main concepts, axioms and hypotheses.
Critical Reading Propose a critique of that paper with respect to one of the following: Its theoretical assumptions to the problem and question. The concepts it uses. The way it measures/interprets/analyzes these concepts. The way the results of analysis are interpreted.
Group Project By October 15 th five groups will submit a list of names of group members. Make sure you belong to one of the groups beforehand, or else people will be randomly assigned. Each group will simulate the strategic setting of a party leadership with accordance to the following division: Group A- a Center party Group B- A Center-Right party Group C- A Center-Left party Group D- An Extreme-Right party Group E- An Extreme-Left party
Group Project By December 2 nd each group will submit a strategic report, based on the readings and lectures, for 'its' party stating: The potential voters' social composition and economic status. The potential voters' policy positions on all relevant policy dimensions. The policy that should be declared by the party in its pre-electoral platform. The way its potential voters should be mobilized on Election Day. The implications this strategy will have on the coalitions the party can join to.
Participation Active participation should be based on contribution to class discussion on the basis of reading the relevant reading items, and other related scholarly work you are familiar with. In order to receive participation credit for a meeting at the end of each lesson you should be able to present at least one academic well-based discussion point you contributed in the meeting. If I approve that then I will sign it. If at the end of the semester you will have 11-15 of those then you will have the full participation grade. If you will have 10-6 then you will have two-thirds of the grade and 5-1 then you will have a third of the grade. Should you decide not to participate that part of the grade is lost.
The Final Exam The final exam will be based on two essay questions. Questions would be based on the following form: Some claim that electoral rules affect the level of representation in political institutions and the way they function. Present and explain three characteristics of electoral systems that affect the level of representation in parliament. Illustrate the characteristics' affect on representation using the Israeli case. Present and explain two characteristics of electoral systems that affect the way coalitions function in multiparty parliaments. Illustrate the characteristics' affect on coalitions using the Israeli case.
General Basic Facts Some facts (CIA world factbook and Central Bureau of Statistics): Population: 7,695,000 (little less than New Jersey little more than Massachusetts) Jewish 75.4%, Arabs 20.4% and 4.2% ‘others’ Area- total: 20,770 sq km (slightly smaller than New Jersey and almost half of the Netherlands ). GDP (per capita)-$28,170 (2007 est.), government annual budget about- $53.63 billion (2007 est.) An OECD member with an observer country status at the EU’s parliament.
Political Basic Premises Israel does not have a formal constitution. The constitutional system is based on a group of basic laws (still not completed), regular laws, bureaucratic decisions and court rulings, all developing incrementally. Basic cleavages that divide and define the political system: Arab-Israeli conflict, State and Religion, Ashkeanzi-Mizrachi controversy, Social-Economic. Increasingly overlapping cleavages: Arab-Israeli conflict and State and Religion. A contested liberal democracy: Ethnocracy? Ethnic democracy? A ‘Stained’ liberal democracy’?
The Political System: Elections A multiparty parliamentary democracy. The country is a single electoral district which elects (from the age of 18) pre-determined party lists to the Knesset (parliament). Influence on party lists is determined by parties’ internal election methods. In order to enter the 120seats Knesset the party lists need to pass a 2% threshold. Beyond the threshold lists receive seats based on their votes’ share.
The Knesset in Action The Knesset is a 120 seats unicameral parliament. The usual Plenary Meeting: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dUodfl7 OHcMhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dUodfl7 OHcM A committee meeting: http://www.youtube.com/user/KnessetForu m?blend=24&ob=5http://www.youtube.com/user/KnessetForu m?blend=24&ob=5 A stormy meeting: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aBErCB F2grM
Some Figures Number of eligible voters to the 18 th Knesset: 5,278,985 Number of voters: 3,373,490 (64%) Electoral threshold: 67,470 (2%) Votes per seat (mandate): 27,246 Do people vote? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=du0JLO kAMws
Electoral turnout on national elections about 75% (fluctuates around that figure)
The Political System: Coalitions The Knesset elects the government. The government is formed by the leader of one of the large factions who received an approval by the state’s President ( a symbolic figure) to negotiate other factions for forming a coalition. The President selects a PM: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eHXEe8ymkz s&feature=related http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eHXEe8ymkz s&feature=related Election Outcomes throughout the years: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pKw_QJTEErI&f eature=related
The Political System: Coalitions If the leader of the largest faction cannot raise a coalition, permission is given to the next faction with the highest likelihood to raise a coalition. If these attempts fail the Knesset will go to new elections.
The Political System: Coalitions The logic of coalition formation in multiparty parliaments is based on ideological compromises vis-à-vis’ transferable payoffs: membership and leadership of Knesset committees, government portfolios and pre-commitments to budget specific policies. Thus- those located at the middle need to make the least compromises so as to enter the government. Those at the extremes will need high compensation for entry. Basically, as factions’ status inside the coalition is more senior, the higher would be their payoffs. However, parties which have a credible threat power to switch between coalitions can maximize their payoffs from the bargaining process.
Coalitions and Parties Overall, parties which are more cohesive as factions, can maneuver collectively and receive higher payoffs (The German Bundestag). Non cohesive parties dismantle and cannot enforce coalitional agreements on their members (Italian Parliament).
The Government After the coalition is formed it needs to receive the Knesset’s approval (vote of investiture) so as to start its reign. Once elected by the Knesset- as long as the government does not lose the confidence of 61 members of Knesset (MK’s)- it can survive.
The Government From 2001 when a majority of 61 MK’s votes no- confidence against the government, it needs to appoint one of its members as the potential head of a new coalition (constructive vote of no-confidence). This starts the coalition formation process again. If the process fails new elections are called. If the Prime Minister resigns (or is declared as unfit to rule due to illness etc.) this also initiates the same process.
Some Figures Number of governments in Israel’s 63 years: 32. Number of PM’s: 12 Average number of government portfolios: 20 Number of Knessets: 18 Average number of factions at the Knesset’s term beginning: 12 (minimum 9 maximum: 15) Average number of factions at the term’s end: 16 (minimum: 11 maximum: 24)
Policy Making The Prime Minister leads the policy making processes in the government. These processes are based on the coalition formation policy guidelines. Thus, they should be based on a process of deliberation and consensus where the PM is first among equals. As elections are near they are based on conflict and dispute. Since elections are frequently near…
Policy Making Policy making is restricted by the government’s budget (decided by government and Knesset and enforced by the Treasury), Knesset’s approval, bureaucratic implementation and judicial review. There is an increasing influence of civil society on policy making processes but the main locus of power is in the hands of the government (some say the treasury). In academic parlance: too many and powerful veto players, too weak and few agenda setters.
A Comparative Perspective US Presidential system: full division of powers, complete term in office (unless the very rare impeachment), bargaining between the White House and Congress (two chambers), two large (and weak) parties. Westminster model: A decisive PM leading her party and government, two strong parties, one effective chamber, no need for inter-party coalitions, regional first- pass-the-post elections.
A Comparative Perspective Semi-Presidential systems (France): President elected directly, PM by the parliament; unless cohabitation the president is decisive, regional first-pass- the-post elections, few dominant parties. Germany: PM elected by a few strong parties’ parliament, high electoral threshold, constructive vote of no- confidence.
Conclusion The political system in Israel is highly representative, highly unstable, offers many obstacles in policy making and allows governments only to survive somehow. Not a problem when no crisis is on hand but in Israel…