Paul Alster
Israel-based print and broadcast journalist

Dis-United Kingdom

For once, Israel’s often shambolic democratic system doesn’t look quite so embarrassing when one views from afar the utter debacle taking place in the dis-United Kingdom in the aftermath of Thursday’s vote to leave the European Union.

Cards on the table time. Had I voted in the referendum, I believe I would eventually have come down on the side of those who wish to stay in the EU; it would have been a very close call as there are so many plusses and minuses on both sides of the argument. But by a majority of well over 1 million votes those who wanted to leave won the day. That’s the way democracy works; you win some, you lose some. The rules were clear from the start that a simple majority would carry the day. There was a winning margin of 3.8%, a fairly narrow but clear vote to leave.

The “Mother of all Democracies,” as the UK has been known for centuries, is often the source of much finger-pointing towards Israel from certain sections of both the political spheres and the general populous, questioning Israel’s definition of democracy and sniping in often thinly veiled, arguably anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic tones at the way things are done over here.

Israel is a very, very long way from being a perfect democracy, yet the legitimate outcome of a national vote by the Israeli public has never resulted in a re-run of the vote because a sizeable minority were unhappy with the way things panned out. Let’s be honest, only 25% of Israelis voted for Bibi Netanyahu at the last election, yet they accepted his victory knowing full well the rules of the game before they voted.

Yet, this is precisely what may transpire in the UK as nearly 3 million people (at the time of writing) have signed an online petition calling for the referendum to be re-staged citing bizarre reasons including: a) the result having been much closer than many anticipated, and b) many people allegedly having voted to leave because they didn’t think that argument would win!

Now the leave campaign has won, it appears millions of Brits want to have another vote to overturn the democratic process. There will be a discussion in parliament early this week to consider the scenario triggered by the vast numbers of people having joined the petition.

Should the outcome of any parliamentary or public debate prompt even a minor change to the terms on which the referendum was staged or, even more drastically, a re-run of the legitimate vote and its result, I would strongly argue that it will signal the end of genuine democracy in the UK. Listen Brits, why not make it best of three? The whole scenario is ridiculous. Would there ever be another vote that could be accepted by the populace?

Whatever transpires over the next few weeks in the UK in this thoroughly bizarre and potentially embarrassing travesty of a genuine democratic process – and remember, I would have voted for the losing side – from over here in Israel there are two positives to take out of a classic British farce.

First, never again would Britain be able to look down its nose and sneer at the way Israel’s version of democracy is played out. For too long the Brits have felt they have a moral high-ground. Many broadly uninformed individuals and organizations spare no opportunity to denigrate and undermine Israel’s genuine beacon of democracy in a region that is awash with tyranny, terrorism and lawlessness.

Second, the dreadful Labour party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, a sickening and unswerving champion of designated terrorist groups Hamas and Hizballah, may finally get his comeuppance. Growing calls for him to stand down after his half-hearted campaign to muster Labour supporters’ votes to stay in the EU, are now being accompanied by an apaprent rebellion from within his own shadow cabinet.

Corbyn has for decades clearly and repeatedly expressed views he insists are only “anti-Israeli”, but which many over here and further afield argue are much more than that. They say they are, at the very least, borderline anti-Semitic.

Let’s hope he goes, and the result — like it or not — stays.

About the Author
Paul Alster is an Israel-based broadcast journalist with a special interest in the Israel/Palestinian conflict and Middle East politics. He is a regular contributor to a variety of international news websites including The Jerusalem Report, and was formerly's main Middle East correspondent. He can be followed on Twitter @paul_alster or at
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