After having been silent for a long time, the current controversy over “judicial reform” is sending me back to the keyboard. It is not that I have some greater insight than others. Just the opposite — I don’t, but then again, from the level of rhetoric being strewn over the airwaves, web sites and newspapers, most of the so-called pundits don’t either.
I am not sure that the Israeli judicial system needs to be reformed, but I can understand how one who feels that the court system is unduly (take your pick) liberal/powerful/corrupt is in favor of radical change. The problem is that the proposed solutions don’t solve the underlying systemic problem, which is that we do not have a truly representative governing system. Until that basic issue is addressed, then the proposed solutions simply paper over the problem until the next change in the ruling party undoes everything.
Wait, I hear you saying: we have a democracy, we have fair and free elections, we have robust freedoms. All true, but what we do not have is true representative government. The people we elect to the Knesset do not represent those who voted for them. They are not beholden to any particular voters, and there is no one to whom an individual voter can turn, to address particular issues. If they wish to continue a MK’s, they must be loyal to only the party, not the people. In fact, there are legal and real world consequences for an MK to vote his/her conscience, if it differs from the party or coalition line. Exhibit A is Yuli Edelstein, punished for purposely not attending a Knesset session so that he would not have to vote in a way that was against his beliefs. For anyone to say that judicial reform is supported by the majority because the coalition controls a majority in the legislature is disingenuous. When one counts the votes of the parties that failed to pass the threshold, the parties in the coalition do not have a majority of the votes cast.
What we need is reform of the Knesset. Divide the country into 120 equal districts. Require MK’s to actual represent constituents. Make them actually beholden to the electorate rather than the party bosses. Have a person who, say, lives in the Negev, actually represent the Negev. Another benefit of this reform is that we will reduce the plethora of parties, eliminating the extremists on both ends of the political spectrum.
Of course, it will never happen, since no current politician is going to voluntarily give up his preferred perch and rise above the petty politics, to be a statesman rather than a politician.