The Israeli Knesset: A Case of Excessive Dissolution?

The Israeli Knesset: A Case of Excessive Dissolution?

Abstract:


As is the case in most parliamentary democracies, the Knesset – the Israeli parliament – may be dissolved prior to the end of its constitutional legislative term. On one hand, this institutional tool brings a degree of uncertainty to the political system and can undermine the government’s stability and steering capacity; on the other, there are political circumstances under which dissolving a parliament and moving up elections can bring the political system out of a stalemate and help crystallize a different parliamentary majority, creating a new and more stable government. This article attempts to examine the case of Israel; more specifically, it assesses whether the shortcomings of early dissolution exceed its advantages, especially given the claims that the Knesset wields excessive authority to decide on an early dissolution. The first section of the article surveys the mechanisms through which the Knesset and other parliaments in parliamentary democracies can be dissolved. We subsequently analyze the end of the terms of the seventeen Knessets between 1949 and 2009. The findings indicate that in the past fifteen years, significant changes have taken place in the ways in which the Knesset has been dissolved. Contrary to the claims, these changes have actually balanced the relationship between authorities in a way that reinforced the standing of the government and prime minister vis-à-vis the Knesset. Moreover, in contrast with the general impression, in most cases the Knesset acted as the “responsible adult” and made measured and wise use of its self-dissolving authority.

Last updated on 02/18/2016