Israel

   
 

Executive Summary

Instability after
successive elections
In the past year or so, the entire political system in Israel has been in a state of instability, mainly due to two rounds of national elections in 2019. After elections to the 21st Knesset on 9 April 2019, the Knesset voted to dissolve itself before a government had been formed for the first time in the history of Israel. The elections to the 22nd Knesset were held on 17 September 2019, but none of the parties have so far been able to form a coalition government.
Prime minister
indicted
Israel’s political crisis deepened in November 2019, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has been prime minister of Israel since 2009, was indicted on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust in three corruption cases. Netanyahu’s unwillingness to resign has sharpened the already deadlocked political system, as Israeli law does not oblige the resignation of a sitting prime minister when charged with a crime, only if he is convicted.
New elections, attacks
on legal system
As of November 2019, Netanyahu still heads a transitional government, and Israel is headed toward a third round of elections in a calendar year on 2 March 2020. Netanyahu’s attacks on the legal system, in response to his indictment and the associated investigations, raise concerns about his ability to serve in office, while continuously delegitimizing the legal system. In fact, pubic trust in the Supreme Court and the police has been in decline since 2013 (although trust in the police increased slightly between 2017 and 2018). While more recent data does not exist, there are concerns regarding Netanyahu continuing to serve in office while under the shadow of indictments, which also undermines public trust in Israel’s political institutions.
Political deadlock impedes decision-making
As the political deadlock persists, Israel’s government has been unable to initiate any fundamental reforms this year. The delay in the passing of the budget makes it difficult to create any important policies. In general, Israel’s government has continued to show a mix of improvements and deteriorations in its performance.
Strong economic performance, but slowdowns ahead
Economic policies have been successful over the last decade, as Israel’s economic environment continued to perform strongly. The inflation rate, as well as the unemployment rate, remains one of the lowest in the Western world. Yet, the OECD estimated that Israel’s economic growth over the next two years will be slow – 2.9% in 2020 and 2021, which is a very low rate in historical terms. In addition, the cost of living is still higher than the average for OECD countries and poverty rates are relatively high.
Mixed record on
social policy
In social policies, as of 2019, Israel ranks 12th among OECD countries based on its inequality level as measured by the Gini coefficient. Government spending on social issues in Israel is one of the lowest in the OECD. In some domains, Israel shows high levels of performance, such as in higher education. Yet, in primary and secondary education, Israel has continued to perform poorly. Israel has one of the widest gaps between the highest and lowest achieving primary-school students in the OECD. There are still wage gaps between women and men, and among subgroups of the population, such as minority and marginalized groups.
Proposals undermining democracy
Regarding Israel’s democratic quality, Israel’s government continues to propose pieces of legislation that appear to undermine aspects of democracy and due process. While many controversial proposals did not win parliamentary passage or were eventually softened in part due to public opposition, they still influenced the public debate and perceptions of democracy.
RIA processes
improving
In the area of executive capacity, Israel has continued to reduce regulatory burdens and showed significant progress in RIA processes. Concerning executive accountability, a notable event in 2019 was the appointment of Matanyahu Englman as the ninth comptroller of the State of Israel. Englman, the first non-judge to be appointed to the position, initiated several reforms that called the effectiveness of the audit office into question. Among others, Englman announced that the Wing of Special Missions (also known as the Division of the War on Corruption) – a unit that was charged with tackling corruption and white-collar crime, and which had brought to court several prominent figures – would be abolished or restricted to merely checking the implications of the office’s various reports.
Citations:
Hermann, Tamar et al., 2019. The Israeli Democracy Index, Israel Democracy Institute, Jerusalem, 2020, https://en.idi.org.il/media/13847/summary-the-israeli-democracy-index-2019-en.pdf

Weiss, Avi (Ed.), State of the Nation Report. Society, Economy and Policy 2019, Taub Center for Social Policies Studies in Israel, 2019, http://taubcenter.org.il/wp-content/files_mf/snr2019eng20.pdf

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel. “2018 – A Bad Year for Democracy Human Rights in Israel – A Second Snapshot,” October 2018 (Hebrew): https://a59952db-05ff-468c-a8f0-411f44dfbc9c.filesusr.com/ugd/01368b_ 4dffc38e27124eea80154d408b5badf3.pdf

Bandel, Netael, “Netanyahu Charged With Bribery, Fraud and Breach of Trust, Capping a Dramatic Political Year,” Haaretz, 21.11.2019: https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/netanyahu-charged-bribery-fraud-corruption-israel-election-1.8137771

Cengic, Imelda, “Minister in Netanyahu’s Government Faces Corruption Charges,” OCCRP, 20.08.2019: https://www.occrp.org/en/27-ccwatch/cc-watch-briefs/10525-minister-in-netanyahu-s-government-faces-corruption-charges

Filut, Adrian, “The OECD in a Gloomy Outlook for Israel: Less Than 3% Growth in the Next Two Years,” Calcalist, 21.11.2019 (Hebrew): https://www.calcalist.co.il/local/articles/0,7340,L-3774210,00.html

Haaretz, “Netanyahu Decries ‘Attempted Coup’ Against Him After Corruption Charges,” 21.11.2019: https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/netanyahu-decries-corruption-charges-an-attempted-coup-against-him-1.8161747

Hermann, Tamar, Or Anabi, Ella Heller, Fadi Omar, The Israeli Democracy Index 2018 (Jerusalem: The Israel Democracy Institute, 2018)

Heruti-Sover, Tali, “Israel’s Unemployment Rate Drops to 3.7%, Part-time Jobs on the Rise“, Haaretz, 28.2.2018: https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/business/israel-s-unemployment-r ate-drops-to-3-7-part-time-jobs-on-the-rise-1.5865222

Holmes, Oliver. Netanyahu Rivals Move to Bring Him Down after Corruption Indictments, The Guardian, 22.11.2019: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/nov/22/netanyahu-rivals-move-bring-him-down-corruption-indictments-israel

RIA Report data, Government Regulation Website, 2019 (Hebrew): http://regulation.gov.il/RIA_REP

The Israeli Democracy Institute. “Statement by IDI on the Attorney General’s Announcement,” 21.11.2019: https://en.idi.org.il/articles/28948

Mako. “The Revolution of the New State Comptroller: Less Dealing in Corruption, More Positive Criticism, 28.07.2019 (Hebrew): https://www.mako.co.il/news-military/politics-q3_2019/Article-a1f1357db573c61027.htm

Yefet, Nati, “Adios, Democracy? How Netanyahu’s Proposed Legislation Would Damage Rule of Law,” The Time of Israel, 23.05.2019: https://www.timesofisrael.com/adios-democracy-how-netanyahus-proposed-legislation-would-damage-rule-of-law/
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