At least every week, we, the public get a fresh poll about the probable number of seat mandates for every party, if elections were held this week. Of course, as things stand, we have a somewhat stable coalition (stable for Israel at least), and a new election doesn’t seem likely yet. This begs the question of why these polls are made in the first place, but today I’m not writing about that.
I wanted to write about elections. It seems integral to Israel’s democracy, as it does to every other “Western democracy” in the world.
Somewhere on the bumpy road of history, we collectively decided that for democracy to work, we must elect spokespersons representing our political ideas and ideals. Just about every democracy in the world operates this way. For an ever-existing elite, this is the perfect system. The people feel in control, while the highest classes get to make all the most critical decisions.
Because that’s how this system works. Those, who climb their way up to eventually fight for the working class, are outliers, an exception to the rule. The rule? Yes. It’s an unspoken one, but it exists. There’s a reason why we must fight for workers’ rights and social and economic equity even while all instruments are given to achieve it. The reason is capitalism and consequentially, representative democracy. It doesn’t work.
A handful of people, in Israel’s case, 120, decide everything about a whole nation’s fate. It simply doesn’t work. There’s a myriad of examples, just in this country, as to why this system is a failing one.
Just take the most relevant ones; the judicial overhaul, military service for Haredim, or even public transport on Saturdays. These are all instances where a clear majority of the country’s citizens support an issue being solved in a certain way.
So why wouldn’t we just vote on it? Next election, we put a yes-or-no question on the ballot, everyone votes, and the matter is decided. European countries do it, US American states do it, why can’t we? If Israel is the democracy it claims it is, why can’t the people decide? Isn’t that the whole idea of democracy? The rule of the people?
There’s an answer to those questions, but as the answer to all uncomfortable questions, the answer is not an easy one. Even if a capitalist society is a self-proclaimed democratic one, it still remains, first and foremost a capitalist one. Where a disgustingly small number of people, usually men, control the economy of a millions-wide country, while also oppressing the overwhelming majority of working-age citizens, and forcing them to sell their labor in exchange for basic necessities, like food, water, and shelter.
That’s the reason for Israel not letting its citizens decide on important matters, and European and other nations who otherwise employ referendum as a tool of direct democracy, let their political elite control the most important subjects.
So, when we think hard about why Israel can’t finally choose a decent and stable government, the answer maybe isn’t “because of society’s gross polarization”, but because of an unfair system of government.
An organized and educated society like Israel’s could very easily handle governmental functions. To divide based on populist issues and political ideology is a tool of a representative democracy, which is, in turn, a tool of capitalism.
When we’re stressed, depressed, and anxious about Israel’s politics, it’s best to simply recognize that it doesn’t have to be this way.