A Too Powerful Prime Minister?
To The Editor:
I would like to point out to you a little-noticed, landmark
decision by Israel's Supreme Court this week, that enormously
enhanced the power of the Prime Minister, vis-a-vis his small-
party coalition partners.
First, they upheld the right of the Prime Minister to fire
any Cabinet minister at any time for any reason whatsoever,
simply because he does not like him or finds his views
politically inconvenient. In the past, it had been understood
that this could only be done if that minister disagreed with
a formal policy of the government, as agreed by a vote of the
Cabinet or Knesset. The only recourse, to withdraw from the
coalition and join the opposition, is of dubious value,
because in effect it is quite difficult to bring down the
government. That requires getting an absolute majority of the
Knesset to vote against, and several other severe
requirements. Meanwhile, the Prime Minister can make deals
with other parties to compensate the loss of the recently
'expelled' one to support it from the outside. The net result
is greatly reduced power of the small, particularly chareidi
and right-wing parties.
Second, the court established the principal that Shabbat and
Yom Tov count as part of the 48-hour waiting period before
Cabinet firings go into effect. This really puts religious
ministers at a serious disadvantage and is a clear anti-
religious discrimination against them, as they would have
little leverage to do anything about it. In fact, if such a
minister is served a dismissal notice in the late afternoon
of the eve of a 2-day Shabbat/Yom Tov (Rosh Hashanah or Yom
Tov on Friday or Sunday), it would take effect during this
holy period, without his having any time to deal with it. In
the past, it had been assumed that these holy periods don't
count toward the cooling-off time.
Has the Prime Minister become too powerful? Should there be a
public debate over whether he should indeed have such broad
powers to dictate policy, in effect, to his Cabinet?
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