Former Mossad Chief: “Israel Faces No Existential Threat”

Article Summary
Former Mossad Chief Meir Dagan has announced the creation of a non-partisan movement to reform the Israeli political system, which he claims has been hijacked by minority interests and political partisanship. He advocates changes to the electoral system, greater separation of powers and a limit on prime-ministerial terms.


Former Mossad Chief Meir Dagan claims that "The State of Israel faces great challenges. Some of these challenges have been imposed on it internally, [while others emanate] from the region. There are some impossible chasms in the Israeli arena that enable minorities and pressure groups to control the state, while the majority is ignored and given no way to implement its agenda."

Dagan delivered this statement during his announcement of the formation of his non-partisan 'There is a Chance' movement, which he has founded upon leaving his post [at the Mossad, an Israeli intelligence agency].  Dagan's new movement aims to "change the political system in Israel."

Dagan shed some light on the Israeli social justice protests staged in July 2011. He said that these protests highlighted the need for change.  He added “the system needs to change and it is best to make this change now.  It is unacceptable to wait; we should implement these [changes] under this current government.  We must demand a prime minister that is able to [objectively] face fateful decisions like attacking Iran or signing a peace agreement, not one that is influenced by political pressures. We call for a prime minister that does not cave in to partisan political pressures, one who is capable of making his own decisions regardless of what other politicians believe.”

Speaking at a conference at Tel Aviv University, Dagan strongly criticized the fact that the Israeli government has such a large number of ministers in comparison to the United States and China.  He said that in Israel there is a surplus of ministers and deputy ministers, and that there is no separation of powers. Dagan stressed, "We do not have separation of power in Israel; the responsibilities of many of the authorities overlap."  He mainly underlined that there is a blending of powers between the executive and legislative authorities, in which around 40 Knesset members work in the executive branch as well.

One of the participants in the conference noted that the United States and China do not suffer from existential threats like Israel does. Dagan surprised many with his response: "Israel faces no existential threat."
In [the context of] his newly-formed non-partisan movement, Dagan proposed to limit the prime minister's term to two consecutive tenures, and suggested that the cabinet should include no more than 16 ministers. Were Dagan's proposals [to be followed], the prime minister would [have to be] the head of the largest party by a majority entailing at least 40% of the vote, and could only be impeached [through the vote] of 61% of Knesset members.

Dagan also advocates raising the election threshold from 2% to 3%, and the holding of elections based on electoral district mapping and proportional representation.  In his opinion, the government should be comprised of competent ministers who do not hold seats in the Knesset. Furthermore, were a Knesset member to be chosen as a minister, he would have to resign from his post at the Knesset. The prime minister would then appoint the minister after having obtained public approval. Dagan mentioned that his plan would soon be presented to the Knesset in the form of a bill sponsored by a number of Knesset members from Zionist parties.

He claimed that this plan is essential due to the pressures currently emanating from minority groups, which he claims are veering Israel off course. He said that his new proposal aims to protect the Israeli prime minister and enable him to carry out his duties based on the proposed plan. The bill's sponsors believe that the plan will stabilize the political system by bolstering large parties and creating strong political blocs. Dagan said that "the bill will eliminate flaws from the mechanisms of governance and pave the way for a strong and stable rule that voices the needs of the majority, while maintaining adequate representation of the different [components of] Israeli [society].”

A number of former military generals took part in the conference, including General Eitan Ben-Eliyahu, Prof. Shimon Shitrit and Itzik Shmuli, chairman of the National Union of Israeli Students.

Prior to the conference, Dagan published an article in Yediot Ahronot, in which he wrote:

“Israel is very close to the point of no return in its ability to overcome the existential challenges that lie ahead of it. This is not only about the Iranian threat, but also the threat to our ability to establish an effective administration capable of steering the national ship through this raging storm. The main characteristics of the State of Israel are social differences and diversity. It is a young country which [is composed of individuals of] various religions, sects and social classes. Israel has been proud of its ability to establish a house that is able to embrace everyone. However, throughout the years, the diversity in Israel has turned from one of its strengths into one of its major weaknesses. The absence of existential fear led to a rapid decomposition of the principles of [the state of] Israel. A minority is exploiting the country’s structural weaknesses in order to tear apart the true character of the state as well as its spirit.”

He concluded by saying: “Instinctively, we tend to focus intently on the great challenges coming in from abroad while we ignore domestic issues. We should understand that internal challenges pose a significant threat to the future of Israel. Our current path will threaten democratic, Zionist Israel. For this reason, we should act now before it is too late.”

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