Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

11 Tammuz 5764 - June 30, 2004 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
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?


Clifford Felder


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