Israel’s Democracy: The Real Issue

“The Nation State Law is meant to ensure that Israelis not sacrificed on the very same alter on which Europe is committing suicide.” [Dr. Mordechai Kedar – Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies].

Dr. Yechiel Leiter of Kohelet has adequately responded to detractors on the given law under the title, “The Nation-State Law, A Constitutional Showdown with Postmodernism” on August 25, 2018. By way of an introduction he makes a statement with a possible answer. He asserts that it’s a painful ritual that we have experienced many times before or is this time different.

Leiter refers to  1967 when Israel was defending itself from annihilation and a group of French academics, intellectual heirs  to the unrepentant Nazi advocate Martin Heidegger created post modernism. He astutely observes that the idea has since engulfed in its entirety , the world of academia, the news media and much of Western political life.

These postmodernists, in viewing the horrific events of the 2oth century interpreted it as the result of failure of modernity. Faith had been replaced by radical enlightenment exclusively with the capacity for human reason. Subsequently, following Auschwitz, the Gulag Archipelago and Mao’s killing fields, it appeared that reason alone was not the answer.

Leiter then works his way through history into which he is able to discredit Arab accusations of racism an apartheid; sprinkled with anecdotes. He points to a sitting Arab judge on the Israeli Supreme Court who sends a sitting Jewish president to jail for 7 years for sexual misconduct. Then follows an incident where Arab Knesset members are permitted to lead a demonstration in Tel Aviv during which the atmosphere is charged with such chants as “With blood and fire  we will redeem Palestine.” Instead of discrediting this form of behavior, the media “shamelessly and continuously recycles the racist canard.”

Yechiel Leiter readily recognizes that for postmodernists, nothing is more objectionable than history which should be forcefully rejected. He quotes post modernist Jean-Francois Lyotard; “I define the postmodern as incredulity  toward metanarratives.” And for Leiter, where is one to find a greater metanarrative than the story of Israel, the people of Israel returning to the Land of Israel, speaking the same language, celebrating the same holidays and honoring the same capital. Zionism is an unparalleled metanarrative of three and a half  millennia, now formally ensconced in Israel’s fledgling constitution.

Abba Eban , Israel’s famous Ambassador to the US, was universally recognized for his brilliance and liberal outlook. Recalling his 4/12/1958 interview by Mike Wallace on the occasion of Israel’s 60th anniversary, when questioned on the Arab refugees by Wallace, he said:

“But the refugee problem, Mr. Wallace, isn’t the cause of tension. The refugee problem is the result of an Arab policy. An Arab policy which created the problem by the invasion of Israel, which perpetuates it by refusing to accommodate them into their expanding labor market, and which refuses to solve the problem which they have the full capacity to solve.”

Eban then explains how the problem could be solved on a regional basis by opening the vast resources of the Arab world to the Arab refugee population. He also stated that Israel would make its due and just contribution.

Yaacov Herzog, a former Israeli Ambassador to Canada and an advisor to several Israeli Prime Ministers had the distinction of either becoming the Chief Rabbi of Great Britain or to serve in the higher echelon of the Israeli government. Quoting from his memorable debate with Professor Arnold Toynbee, when questioned on the 1948 Arab refugees,he responded indignantly:

“In Israel now, there are 10% Arabs [200,000]. They enjoy every right with their fellow -citizens. But you want us to take back people who have been nurtured on hate for 13 years on the basis of a Resolution of 1948.” He pointed out that the hate was accompanied by vengeance and destruction—–“if we take them back they can rip us apart.”

The aforementioned statesmen, yes statesmen and not politicians as of today, understood the problems and were able to propose solutions. A modern day statesman, by name Moshe Aarons recognized that what is currently favored by the nations is not two states for two people, but three-plus Palestinian states, without Jews. This would be the infamous two-state solution comprising East Palestine [Jordan], West Palestine [a  segment of Judea and Samaria], and South Palestine [Gaza]. Who needs another Arab state? The Arab League created the problem and it is up to them to furnish the solution.

Interestingly, in a leading article in The Jerusalem Post of May 25, 2014 entitled, ” Is Israel a True Democracy “, Lior Akerman touches on several key issues. These include:

[a] When I began researching the definition of the term parliamentary democracy, I learned that it is a democratic system of government in which all the citizens choose their representatives for parliament according to their political affiliation, and then the political parties choose their leaders.

[b] Political leaders are not democratically elected by the people, and the latter have become completely apathetic.

[c] What I found was that the State of Israel defines itself as a parliamentary democracy.

The case for the Nation-State Law has been made by many highly qualified individuals and most certainly refutes the pathetic arguments by the usual naysayers. As for the Arabs who object to the removal of Arabic they need to remember that it was Ben Gurion who gave the Arab citizens of Israel political rights. The Palestine Mandate made provision for the subject Arabs to be afforded religious and civil rights alone.

The Russian citizens of Israel are far greater in numbers than Israel’s Arab citizens and have never demanded the Russian language to be afforded equal rights. English as the only international language was not considered as being necessary.

Mr. Netanyahu in discussing the new law incorporates the word “democracy” which does not appear in Israel’s original Proclamation. In fact, it is meaningless as a stand alone entity. The correct term applicable to Israel is “Parliamentary Democracy”, which regrettably is Israel’s major error.

If the Israeli Arab citizens as a minority conduct themselves as do Jewish minorities in the US, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain etc., then of course they are most welcome. Just as Italy is the nation-state of the Italian people and France is the nation-state of the French people, Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people.

Any reliable text on Representative Government will explain that it has historically denoted a system in which people elect their lawmakers [representatives], who are then held accountable to them for their activity within government. This, of course is not what Israel has. It has been widely accepted as the only practical form of democracy, by at least 22 countries. For the US, it has long-standing roots, its argument dating back to the English philosopher John Locke.

Israel is a parliamentary democracy where top executive power is exercised by the Cabinet of Ministers, legislative power by the Knesset, and law interpretation  overseen by a judicial selection committee. Israelis from Western countries are accustomed to Representative Democracy which facilitates direct access to Congressmen and Senators. In Israel, the Knesset publishes a list of the members complete with email addresses.

However a citizen who has need of problem resolution will mostly not have an email replied to, receive an excuse for non-performance or totally ignored. The result is easily understood. The MK feels no loyalty to a citizen who can only vote for a list. What is the end result? Dysfunctional or understaffed government departments. This can be readily detected by observance of the police force and the judiciary.

A review of past media reports leaves one non-plussed over the extent of police corruption, incompetence and inclination towards avoidance of indictment. It has been said that part of the problem is a shortage of prosecutors. Apparently time is not of the essence in many cases. Typically a reported crime will take at least 18 months prior to conclusion. The more one probes and researches, the more one becomes aware that failure to indict is a common practice in Israel. Consider the following random selected headlines:

“More than 90% of complaints against police not investigated, ministry says” [Yaniv Kubovich 9/24/2014].

“Looking for a super- cop: Who can  save the Israel Police from itself? [Judah Ari Gross 9/7/2015].

“Not enough evidence to prosecute Sharon” The Independent 28/04/2004].

“Israel Prosecution Warns that Justified Complaints Against Prosecutors are on the Rise” [Haaretz 28/02/2018].

“Alshich: “Police , Summarize Cases they Don’t Recommend Prosecution” [ Hamodia 31/10/2017].

“Selective Prosecution: In Israel, not all citizens are created equal.” [ 972 mag.com 17/04/2014].

” How will  IDF Prosecutors deal with 240 Palestinians  arrested all at once ? [Jerusalem Post 19/06//2014].

” Netanyahu’s brother : Police methods are a danger to democracy [ Times of Israel 17/03/2018].

The “not enough evidence” is not an infrequent response from the Israeli police. Just as it is well understood that the pursuit of justice is core to Jewish tradition. A nation cannot survive without a proper judicial system. Without faith in the justice system, society would descend into  utter anarchy.

The Kohelet Policy Forum is among the very few entities in Israel to recognize the need for reform. They published a paper on feasible electoral reform on January, 2017 and again on  17 September, 2017. It is a detailed proposal based on years of research, data analysis and comparative studies. Surprisingly, the researchers expressed confidence in it having a realistic chance of being implemented. It is aimed at achieving the following  overall goals:

[1] Making MK’s accountable  and answerable  to their voters.

[2] Improving government stability.

However, without a massive public rally it is doubtful of success.

Beyond the Nation-State Law, Israeli Arabs need to understand that they share with Jewish citizens being disenfranchised as long as Israel persists in having a Parliamentary government system.

 

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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