Monday, December 12, 2005

Democracy in Israel

Independent f my opinion of Ariel Sharon and his new party, I am concerned by something deeper. I am really concerned by the sight of so many polticisns handing their mandates to Sharon, in violation of their obligations to their voters. Where is accountability? There isn't any. Moreover, the polls show (as the press cheers) an ever growing number of seats in the Knesset for the new conglomeration.

Of course, other parties have swept elections before and sent the opposition into the single digits. I happened in Britain and Canada. The difference is that here, as
Maariv reports, Sharon is trying to destroy all of the other parties. With no opposition, with a one party system, there will be no demcracy and no checks and balances on Sharon's power. The Knesset will be in his thrall and the Supreme Court is tailoring its decisions to his new political agenda, anyway. [My son, Avi, pointed out that Freedom House only declared Israel a democracy in 1977, when Begin defeated labor. Previously, it had termed Israel a one party system.]

Gotta go read 1984 again. Orwell was too perspiciacious.


Anonymous said...

this whole sharons party thing is totally bewildering.
what do all these guys flocking to sharon have in common with sharon?

i havent thought this through completely, but are all the upper members of his new party (aside from Peres) somehow in the Israeli justice system?

Out of Step in Kfar Saba said...

What has really amazed me is that some longtime Meretz voters that I know are voting for Sharon!
I think this is "battered wive's syndrome". People have given up and said to Sharon - 'please solve all of our problems, any way that you wish'.
Sad that a country with so much political passion is turning on itself - will Iraq soon be the only democracy in the mideast?

Dave said...

I recently posted about this, but I'll ask you also:

Why does a MK (and kal v'chomer a non-politician) switching parties before an election mean that he is "violating his obligation to his voters"? I guess you could say that he brings money to the new party, but the MK's leaving the Likud are leaving their money in the old party.

And why should we be concerned about the fact itself that Sharon is getting so many seats? I mean you can say you don't agree with Sharon, won't vote for Sharon, etc, but isn't it every party's goal to get as many seats as it can? I don't understand how Sharon is breaking the rules here.

Jeffrey said...

To Dave,
Each Likud MK who goes over to Sharon takes his money with him and thus reinforces the Likud's debt, which was partly incurred by his election. The principled thing to do would be to resign and run de novo (as Zahi HaNegbi did).

I never meant to imply that Sharon was wrong to try to get as many seats as he can. I'm dismayed by the flow of totally incompatible people to one party united ONLY by loyalty to one man: not to an agenda, not to an ideology-to one person. I find that very scary, especially if he's as corrupt as Sharon.

I"ll admit, though, that part of my fear is grounded in the suspicion that Sharon will not only bulldoze the rest of Yesha, he will also destroy what's left of the Jewish character of the country, crush what remains of religious zionism, and crush what's left of our civil rights. Why do I think so? Because some of all of that was done last Summer and none of the champions of Civil Liberty (including the Chief Justice), said boo. Will this be legal? Probably. Will it weaken Israel in the face of an ever more powerful ans militant Muslim World. Indisputably.

I find that scary.

Anonymous said...

Dr. J.,

I will assume that your comments, certainly in your last response, were deliberately a bit hyperbolic. Which is not to downplay your concerns. But the bottm line here is that there is a perfectly obvious explanation for what is happening, and it has nothing to do with personal loyalty to Sharon. MK's are flocking to Kadima because it represents a broad emerging centrist consensus among the populace. Put differently, the country does not want what you want. This is not to sweep under the rug any abuses of democracy that have occurred under Sharon's watch. But it does mean, and this is something that you have to start to be able to hear, my friend - that the large majority of Israelis fear religious Zionists a lot more than they fear Sharon. And it also means that beyond a certain point there is a falseness to all the cries about crimes against democracy. It is one thing to demand that civil rights and minority rights be respected (a cause, by the way, which Religious Zionism utterly ignored until things started to not go its way, which is part of why many of its spokespeople sound so hypocritical now.) But to live in a democracy means to acknowledge that the majority rules. And the majority does not want to send its children to defend small yishuvim in the midst of a million Arabs. It does not want to fight wars for Eretz Yisrael haShlemah, and it does not want to be held hostage to policies which mean that neither we or our descendants will ever see peace unless all the Arabs miraculously disappear.

It would appear that lots of former Likud MK's know this. It doesn't take much to see it, and it proves that religious Zionism has failed to show the leadership necessary to craft any kind of broad consensus in Israeli society. There is now much bitterness and a profound sense of betrayal; we have heard it from many, including yourself. It would be more helpful, though, if we took a good long look in the mirror.

Dave said...

Actually, it looks like the money is staying in the Likud (as I mentioned.) This article says that the Likud is demanding it:

And while I can't find a source now, I believe I heard on the radio that Kadima conceded that the members who signed that document would not receive the money.

Anonymous said...



You seem to think that the government and the rest of Israeli society is out to crush religious Zionism. The rest of society worries that if religious zionists take over they will have no rights... at best. And this is why the overwhelming majority of Israelis would rather have Sharon, with all his warts, than the likes of Dov Lior.

You are going to tell me that Dov Lior doesn't represent the majority of religious Zionism? I know he doesn't. But hamon ha'am isn't making fine distinctions here.

Until our own camp confronts and marginalizes people like this, we will simply drive the rest of the country farther and farther away. And if none of our voices are heard condemning Dov Lior, then we are all hypocrites if we complain about Sharon's brand of democracy.

Jeffrey said...

I agree about the radical rabbis, wholeheartedly. It remains a fact, as Caroline Glick has pointed out, that the highlighting of extremists by the media is responsible for the creation of the image of the RZ public. Part of this is the search for ratings. Part, however, is a clear example of the kulturkampf against RZ and Judaism generally. Look at Orit Shohat's lament after the withdrawal from Gaza. She's sick over the fact that secular soldiers came to admire the residents and were drawn by their religious beliefs. It's a mixed bag, and we need to fight it on both fronts. Klapping Al Het is only part of the solution. said...

The issue of the money is constitutional. It is governed by a basic law. Only a recognized faction can receive money that would normally go to the parent party. A recognized faction is 1/3 of party that breaks away. Also in order to prevent horse-trading of the sort that is going on now, the law prevents a lone MK - or a non-faction group of MK's - that breaks away from the original party from running on the list of another party currently in the knesset (including a new "faction) in the next election.

That is why Kadima will get the funding for the Likud list memberes that joined them and not the members of the other party. That is why Shimon Peres will not be candidate on the Kadima list. That is why Haim Ramon rescinded his official resignation from the labor party and will probably vote with his party on all future votes iuntil the end of the term - so that he can get a spot on the Kadima list next election. That is why Effie Eitam and Yitzchak Levy can join the NU party - they are a recognized faction joining another party or faction. Mofaz can run on Kadima list b/c he wasn't an MK this past term.

bluke said...

The whole party switching thing is ridiculous. None of these MK's were actually elected. Their party got a certain number of seats and they were placed on the list to fill those seats. A party can determine it's list in any way (primaries, Central Committee, R' Ovadya Yosef, etc.). THE SEAT DOESN'T BELONG TO ANY INDIVIDUAL. The seat belongs to the party. To allow an MK to leave his party and keep his seat is an absolute travesty of the system.

Today something even more ridiculous happened. Pnina Rosenblum became an MK today because Hangebi resigned and she was next on the list. She refused to commit to stay in the Likud. What gives her that right? Who elected her?