Israel has many pressing problems,but the behavior of Arab members of Knesset is not one of them, nor is the irritation caused
by some of the Ultra-Orthodox Jewish members.
Surely, Hanin Zuabi, Jamal Zahalka and company do whatever they can in order to infuriate ordinary Israelis,and judging
by the recent elections, so do Moshe Gafny and Israel Eichler, but the way to deal with it
is not through legislation.
The Knesset is now deliberating a new law which will raise the threshold necessary for representation to 4%, or 5 seats , as opposed
to 2% and 3 seats now.
Both Likud Beitenu and Yesh Atid of Yair Lapid are behind this initiative, which stands a very good chance of
being approved and becoming a law.The explanation given is, that it should be just the first step in a more
comprehensive electoral/political reform, designed to make Israel a more governable state.
The truth is, that Avigdor Lieberman and the Yariv Levins of Likud want to get rid of the Arab members,
and Yair Lapid wants the same with the Ultra-Orthodox.
I take the risk of being called naive, perhaps even being defined as totally ignorant about Israel
and its politics, but I believe, that Israel is well governed with the current system,moreover I believe that
legislation is not the key to a solution with problems which have to do with the complicated, sensitive and delicate
demographic composition of the state.
Let us start with the issue of effective government or lack thereof. France of the Fourth Republic, Italy since the end of
WW2, Greece nowadays, can be considered as dysfunctional democracies.Israel, by no means, comes close to that. Coalition governments
may be less effective than a single-party government, and surely , the functioning or lack thereof of some of
Israel’s coalition governments have raised eyebrows on occasions, but Israeli coalition governments made crucial decisions
about war and peace, the economy, reparations from Germany, just to mention some. The overall democratic
regime withstood the pressures connected with some of these resolutions and potential crises, and at no time
was the Israeli system challenged from within, the way France was in 1958, or Greece at the moment, and obviously Italy
on so many occasions.
Coalition government in itself is not a sure recipe for internal paralysis, sometimes the opposite is the case , and in Israel
there exists also the mechanism of a government of national unity which has served us well on more than one occasion.
Clearly, the operation of a coalition government which is composed of parties which represent different political
ideologies, if not outright conflicting ones, can and does produce irritants and embarrassing situations, some will say too many
of those, but work is being done, decisions taken and the country moves on.
The sense that coalition government by definition is an ineffective organ is not borne out when we compare Israel to
other Western Democracies, which do not have this system as we do. Most striking example which comes to mind is, the
current situation in the US. Two parties, bi-cameral system, and yet, a congressional gridlock. Washington does not function, so we are told
time and again. Well, Washington works, but more slowly and less effectively than what many people want it to be.
This is the case, when political, social and demographic realities pose problems which objectively cannot be resolved quickly.
In a real, representative and functioning democracy, majority rules, there is no way out of it, but majority vote
Should not necessarily be achieved by the show of hands only. Dialogue, discussion, search for consensus and above all, tolerance
towards the OTHER, the MINORITY is of the essence.
And with that, we get back to the Israeli demographic /political landscape. I owe my readers[hope they exist…] a personal
confession. Many statements and actions by Haredi Jewish and Arab members of the Knesset put me on the brink, as much as they do
many other Israelis, perhaps the majority of Israelis. That said, it is incumbent upon us to understand, that the question of state
and synagogue which has plagued the Jewish people for 3OOO years of existence cannot be resolved even after 65 years
of renewed Jewish sovereignty in our historic homeland. Is a dialogue useless? it may seem so, but not really .
Is a coercion possible?, surely not. Our Ultra-Orthodox brothers and sisters have to make concessions, and in fairness, in many respects they have.
That is to say, that the current legislation aimed at resolving the problem of Haredi draft dodging is immediate act
of legislation which stands no chance of succeeding, even if the law will be approved in the Knesset.
Improvements to the now defunct Tal Law could still work. It should be tried.Many more Haredim volunteer to military service than ever before. So, a legislation can be achieved, and the Haredim could be reliable partners in doing that, but a legislation which will disenfranchise
at least one of their parties is not the solution.
As with Ultra-Orthodox, so with Israeli Arabs. I need to be clear here, and categorically state my mind, that
I object to the proposed new legislation, not because it may force the Arab parties plus the Communists to form
a united list, thus beat the new proposed threshold , essentially creating a strong Arab/Palestinian National party,a scenario
which is feared by many Israelis.
I object, because I do not believe that legislation can resolve the question of Palestinian-Arab nationalism
and its existence in a state with a built-in Jewish majority, which I hope will be forever, but also
because I wish to grant the Arab minority the right to express themselves as a pluralistic society, much the
same as they do now, through various parties, representing a wide-range of issues. Any act of overt betrayal, such as that committed by former M.K Azmi Bishara
can be dealt by the legal system, exactly as it was 7 years ago with this renegade politician.
Some changes in the election law can take place, for example raising the threshold to 2.5%, or 3 seats,
but the legislation which is now in place is bad.
Bad to our democracy, bad to our image. It should be dropped and the sooner the better.