Why did Israel go to war?

After the Palestinians in the Old City of Jerusalem and the Israeli police during the month of Ramadan, Palestinian armed groups such as Hamas in the Gaza Strip have launched thousands of rockets in the direction of Israel for several days starting from the night of May 10th. Was intercepted by Israel. Israel, which has suffered loss of personnel and property, has been violent in retaliatory air strikes. In addition to the targeted removal of intelligence officers and commanders of several Palestinian armed organizations, many innocent civilians have also been killed, triggering international anger.

This small war occurred during the deadlock in the formation of the cabinet after Israel’s general election in March. It was also vaguely related to the Legislative Council elections and the presidential elections that the Palestinians originally planned to hold on May 22 and July 31, respectively. On April 30, the 86-year-old Palestinian President Abbas announced: “There can be no elections without the full participation of the Palestinians in East Jerusalem.” Abbas accused Israel of not cooperating with Palestine in promoting the election. The election is actually detrimental to the Fatah faction.

Also facing the risk of party rotation this year is Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, who has been involved in three lawsuits. Since he failed to complete the cabinet formation on May 4th, and the request to extend the two-week cabinet formation period was rejected by the outgoing Israeli President Rivlin in July, Netanyahu anxiously waited for the leader of the opposition coalition. The result of Rapide’s cabinet formation. If Rapide also fails to complete the cabinet formation on schedule, in order to prevent Israel from opening the fifth general election in two and a half years, Netanyahu may demand that he continue to be in power as the “wartime prime minister.” Therefore, Israel’s motives for this big fight are not simple.

Tricky internal political stalemate
On March 23 this year, Israel held its 24th parliamentary election in history. This is also Israel’s fourth general election in just two years. The first three general elections were held in April 2019, September 2019, and March 2020. Among them, after the first two general elections, the major political parties failed to successfully form a cabinet.

After the third general election, the situation has not improved fundamentally. But just when the mountains and rivers were exhausted, a turning point emerged. The heads of the two camps Netanyahu and Gantz reached an agreement to take turns as prime minister: Netanyahu will be the first prime minister in the coalition government for 18 months, Gantz will serve as deputy prime minister and minister of defense; Netanya After Nyahu ends his term, Gantz will take over as prime minister, and Netanyahu will become deputy prime minister. However, the two sides are actually in the same bed with different dreams. The fragile ruling coalition collapsed due to differences in government budgets and finally had to hold a general election in advance.

Compared with the previous three general elections, the most obvious change this time is the difference between the top two political parties and their seats. In the first three elections, the Likud group and the “Blue and White Party” were the top two parties, and the difference in seats between the two was no more than 3 seats. Before this general election, after the center-left party “Blue and White” split into a “future” party led by Rapide, it was greatly injured and became a small party with only 8 seats; the “future” party was It took the second place with 17 seats, but its gap with the largest party, Likud, has widened. The Likud Group won 30 seats in the general election.

Although there is still a large gap between the seats received by the Likud group and the 61 seats required for the formation of the cabinet, because of its absolute leading position among the political parties, Israeli President Rivlin appointed Netanyahu on April 6. Form a new government. According to the law, Netanyahu will have 28 days to form a new government.

As far as the current situation is concerned, the right-wing camp headed by the Likud Group won 52 seats, and the center-left camp led by the “Have the Future” party won 56 seats. Neither party has reached the 61 seats required for the formation of a cabinet. The “Unified Right Alliance” (Yamina, a Zionist ultra-right party led by the former Secretary of Defense Bennett, opposed to the orthodox Jewish party on which Netanyahu relies) has not yet stated which camp to join. The United Arab List” (Raam, Islamic conservative party) has become the focus of the two parties. These two parties hold 7 and 5 seats respectively.

Theoretically speaking, the two major camps on the left and right of Israel may succeed in forming a cabinet, but it does not rule out the possibility of another failure in forming a cabinet and holding the fifth general election around October this year.

The Israelis naturally saw the negative effects of the low threshold for elections, so they gradually increased the threshold for elections since 1992. In 1992, it increased from 1% to 1.5%. Although the increase was only 0.5%, it has had a significant impact on international relations in Israel and the Middle East.
The Palestinian-Israeli issue itself is a worldwide political problem, and now it has encountered such a difficult internal political stalemate, the tragic Israelis are thus trapped in the labyrinth of the parliamentary system. Can they use their ingenuity to get out of the maze? In fact, in its not too long history, the Israelis have also made some efforts, but the results have not been satisfactory.

Difficult trade-offs of raising the barriers to elections
The source of Israel’s frequent cabinet formation difficulties is actually very simple, and it is the superposition of structural and institutional factors.

The social structure of Israel is extremely diverse, with numerous sects and ethnic groups. Those who are not familiar with Israel would think that Israel is a homogenized country dominated by Jews. But in fact, Israel not only has Jews, but also Arabs. Even within the Jews, the differences are very obvious.

The fragmentation of the Israeli party system is very high. In each parliamentary election, there are 33 parties at most and 14 at least. The parties that can eventually cross the parliamentary threshold are no less than 10, and 15 at most. Numerous political parties directly increase the complexity of the negotiation of cabinet formation under the parliamentary system, and are also extremely detrimental to the stability of the coalition government.

Of course, a diversified social structure does not necessarily lead to a fragmented political party structure. The key depends on the electoral system adopted. If the electoral system is divided into centripetal and centrifugal type, the simple majority electoral system belongs to the centripetal type, and the proportional representation system belongs to the centrifugal type. The famous French political scientist Duvergé found an interesting phenomenon: a country that adopts a simple majority representation system usually produces a two-party system, while a country that adopts a proportional representation system usually produces a multi-party system. For example, the United States is a country with a very diverse social structure with complex ethnic differences, but the United States does not have a fragmented multi-party system. The secret is that the United States has adopted a simple majority election system.

Unfortunately, Israel has always adopted a proportional representation system since the founding of the nation. Under the proportional representation system, numerous small parties and new parties can easily enter the parliament, which in turn causes the fragmentation of the party system. Since the founding of the nation, many politicians in Israel have tried to abolish the proportional representation system. For example, in the early 1950s, Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben Gurion, proposed to replace the proportional representation system with a majority election system. The small party boycotted this reform plan and finally died.

In addition to the electoral system, another institutional measure with immediate effect is to raise the threshold for political parties to enter the parliament, that is, each party must reach a certain standard in order to be allowed to enter the parliament and obtain seats. However, from 1949 to 1992, Israel’s election threshold has been maintained at a low level of 1% of the vote. This has allowed many small parties to easily enter the parliament, aggravating the fragmentation of the party system and increasing the difficulty of forming a cabinet.