Except For All The Others

“Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.” [Winston Churchill]

“At the bottom of all the tributes paid to democracy is the little man, walking into the little booth, with a little pencil, making a little cross on a little bit of paper—no amount of rhetoric or voluminous discussion can possibly diminish the overwhelming importance of that point. —Churchill, House of Commons, 31 October 1944.

How is that word ‘democracy’ to be interpreted? My idea of it is that the plain, humble, common man, just the ordinary man who keeps a wife and family, who goes off to fight for his country when it is in trouble, goes to the poll at the appropriate time, and puts his cross on the ballot paper showing the candidate he wishes to be elected to Parliament—that he is the foundation of democracy.

And it is also essential to this foundation that this man or woman should do this without fear, and without any form of intimidation or victimization. He marks his ballot paper in strict secrecy, and then together with elected representatives, decide what government, or even in times of stress, what form of government they wish to have in their country. If that is democracy, I salute it. I espouse it. I would work for it.” —Churchill, House of Commons, 8 December 1944.”

Churchill’s excellent introduction is all embracing, particularly because it alludes to a major omission in Israel’s copy of the British document; ” showing the candidate he wishes to be elected to Parliament.” In other words, not proportional representation.

On April 1, 2009, famed historian Bernard Lewis penned a piece in The Wall Street Journal entitled, “Israel’s Election System is no good”. He correctly notes that this system of voting is the source of many of the difficulties which plague Israeli public life. Comparing it with the English speaking countries, the oldest and most stable democracies, he asserts that voting is by constituencies.

However, Lewis points to the founders of the state of Israel’s preference of the Weimer model – hardly an auspicious choice – and demolishes it, while pointing out that the system of proportional representation by party list is used in a number of democratic countries. He lists several including Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Demark, Hungary, Japan, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Germany and Poland.

Apparently, proportional representation has been the choice of just about every democratic country that designated its electoral machinery after proportional representation was invented, which did not occur until the nineteenth century.

The Embassy of Israel to the United States has conveniently posted a comparison of the Israeli and US Electoral Systems. They are described through sections covering Voting and Legislative Bodies, Electoral Districts, Political Leader, Israeli Ministers of Government/US Cabinet Secretaries, Parties Competing for Election and Campaign Finance. The purpose of this paper is to focus on the first item.

In Israel, voters cast one ballot for a single political party to represent them in the Knesset, Israel’s Parliament. The Knesset is unicameral and is comprised of 120 elected party members. Knesset seats are assigned in proportion to each party’s percentage of the total national vote. The number and order of members entering the Knesset for each party corresponds to its list of candidates as presented for election.

In most cases, the prime minister appoints members of the elected coalition party to serve as ministers of the government. In rare cases, professional ministers are appointed.

And this is supposed to be democracy! A citizen votes for a list – an inanimate object. The Israeli Prime Minister and many others are forever broadcasting to the world that Israel is a democracy. Of course in making such proclamations it is in the context of Arab nations deficiency, as if using the lowest denominator serves as a suitable measure. Rather extraordinary considering that the Prime Minister resided in the US for so many years.

As an Oleh from Western countries [South Africa – 42 years and the USA -26 years], this blogger has become increasingly disturbed by a feeling of being disenfranchised. In the US, it is a simple matter to either engage a Congressman on the phone or by a face-to-face appointment for any citizen. In Israel, it is virtually impossible to gain the attention of an MK. The reasons are obvious, the Congressman is dependent on citizen votes, the MK is not.

The Israeli Electoral System is fully explained by Ziv Hellman in an My Jewish Learning article. Interestingly, he commences with, “The Israeli political system can often appear bewildering to those more familiar with the electoral system of the United States”. Even more so, “The American voter elects individual representatives of district constituencies, while the Israeli voter selects from amongst lists of candidates for the Knesset throughout the country.”

Election to the Knesset is by proportional representation, and there are no districts–the entire country is one district. The executive branch is not elected directly. It instead arises out of the Knesset, in a sense.

The 1999 edition of the Tulsa Law Journal – The Judicial System in Israel is most instructive. It commences by noting that the legal system in Israel is quite different from that of the United States. Israel as the United Kingdom, does not have a written constitution, whereas the United States does. The three main differences between the American and Israeli systems are the following:
[1] Israel does not have a jury system. [2] Israel does not have capital punishment and [3] Israel does not have a written constitution.

A nation cannot survive without a proper judicial system. Without faith in the justice system, society would descend into utter anarchy. The pursuit of justice is core to Jewish tradition. Imagine how revolutionary these ideas were 3,000 years ago and still are today. Should lawlessness grow in Israel? Is the notorious Satmar Rabbi Teitelbaum to be proven correct that the country would be governed by unsuitable officials?

A competent Tel Aviv criminal lawyer once stated uniformly that the Israeli police are encouraged to minimize court cases due to insufficiency of prosecutors! Indeed, any member of the NYCTA police force of Scotland Yard upon visiting Israel would be shocked to witness what passes for a police force.

While one can readily pour admiration over Israel’s superb IDF, high tech accomplishments and many other realms of endeavor, its judiciary and police are appallingly deficient for a modern democracy. Consider a few newspaper headliners:

“More than 90% of Complaints Against Police Not Investigated, Ministry Says” [Ha’aretz Sep 24, 2014]
“9 in 10 complaints against police dismissed, watchdog finds” [Times of Israel April 5, 2017]

“IDF Prosecutor forged documents to prevent soldier’s release” [Arutz 7 Sep 2, 2017]

“Alshich: Police ‘Summarize Cases,’ They Don’t ‘Recommend Prosecution’ [Hamodia Oct 31,2017]

“Israeli Prosecution Ombudsman Warns that Justified Complaints Against Prosecutors Are on the Rise’ [Ha’aretz Feb. 28, 2018]

” Selective Prosecution: In Israel, not all citizens are created equal” [+972 Mag Apr, 7, 2014]

In the body of the above, one finds such language as “The Interior Ministry also allegedly fails to keep complainants informed during proceedings—“, “Some police officers say the department simply prefers high-profile cases”, According to the Ministry , of the 11,282 complaints between 2011 and 2013, only 306 cases led to a criminal process – 2.7% – and 373 led to disciplinary process – 3,3%, The rest were closed due to an alleged lack of evidence or a lack of public interest. Or they weren’t looked into’ and ‘—-their complaints would not be investigated. It gave no explanation.”
“The department only counted the cases it investigated.”

In yet another report, “—-in 2013 it closed 847 cases without an investigation after an examination into whether there was course for an investigation. Fully 1,104 cases were closed due to a lack of public interest.” One has to wonder who in the “public” was consulted. Indeed, a secretary in the Jerusalem prosecutor’s has stated privately, “In Israel, it is very difficult to indict.”

Perhaps it is time for a novelist to author a book on “The Small Time Criminals Among US.”

On Jan. 15, 2009, the Jerusalem Post published Gil Hoffman’s, The power-to-the people party”, featuring Tel Aviv University Professor Gideon Doron’s attempt to create a new political party, one proposing much needed electoral reform.

It was to attract the support of Anglo-Saxons “—because they understand what we are trying to say a lot better ——–The party calls for the immediate passage of a constitution, a cabinet made up strictly of professionals and ending the current system of electing the entire Knesset via party-list proportional representation, which makes Israel the only thriving Western nation, where the public at large does not elect a single parliament directly.”

One cannot expect the public from the extinct Soviet or Arab countries to appreciate the subject need. But for the Anglo-Saxon community, of whom there are between 250,000 and 300,00 not to rise to the occasion is shameful. There are at least 225,000 North Americans amongst them, who must surely miss being able to call a Congressman whenever required.

Doron’s closing remark, “People need to realize that they are the owners and they have the rights and when they delegate those rights to the government, they need to receive performance and accountability in return.” Sadly, he failed.

Today, one would question whether the Anglo-Saxon organizations, AACI, ESRA and Telfed could rise above the mundane. Whether one could not tap into highly qualified professionals of all ethnic backgrounds to rally or even peacefully rebel against the status quo. Is it so terrible to have effective law enforcement?

About the Author
Alex Rose was born in South Africa in 1935 and lived there until departing for the US in 1977 where he spent 26 years. He is an engineering consultant. For 18 years he was employed by Westinghouse until age 60 whereupon he became self-employed. He was also formerly on the Executive of Americans for a Safe Israel and a founding member of CAMERA, New York (Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America and today one of the largest media monitoring organizations concerned with accuracy and balanced reporting on Israel). In 2003 he and his wife made Aliyah to Israel and presently reside in Ashkelon.
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