Emanuel Shahaf

The End of Democracy As We Know It ?

Recent political developments have further harmed the already limited public trust in politicians and in the political system in general. The level of cynicism among the public is sky high and the media, not having been invited to the recent plot, have done their share to exploit Netanyahu’s and Mofaz’s scheming. While it can be argued that political deals like the last one have happened before on Israel’s checkered  political scene, there is a strong feeling that in this particular instance, Mr. Netanyahu and particularly Mr. Mofaz may have overdone it. Off course we won’t really know if either of them will pay an electoral price until election time which conveniently has been moved far enough ahead to enable weary citizens to forget the shenanigans that just went down.

At the same time as our conventional politicans are laboring at improving their positions or at least maintaining them, outfoxing each other and the public in the process and generally doing precious little to deal with Israel’s looming problems at hand, a number of small political groups and movements are working to change all this and create a new and more direct kind of democracy. These groups, some of them with links to protest movements all over the globe have been working at creating novel tools and systems to radically improve the public’s access to the political process and its ability to influence their parties, their elected representatives and government in general. The easy accessibility of the internet and the availability of open source software have made these cooperative ventures a lot easier and a lot cheaper and a few philantropists and some energetic fundraising efforts are now supporting the development of these powerful alternatives to the traditional way in which we interact with political parties and politicians.

As the saying goes “change is good, you go first”. The political groups that I am aware of are not associated with any existing party and even if they would make their novel tools and systems, once ready, available to an existing political party, it is doubtful if any of the parties would be ready to adopt them. The web-based alternatives that are being developed place a lot of power into the hands of the individual and thus will go a long way in disabling today’s all powerful party machines which will, off course, fight tooth and nail to prevent their adoption. Therefore, it is likely that these new alternatives will have to be introduced  through a new political party, something similar to the “Piraten” (Pirates) party in Germany. That party’s appeal is spreading like wildfire and it is expected to pull in between 10 and 15 percent of the vote in the next German elections.

It remains to be seen if any of the new alternatives will be ready for the coming elections in Israel and if any of the political groups will be able to morph into a relevant political party in time. The quick rise of a young, web-based party in Germany, Israel’s dynamic political and technological environment and an active protest movement looking for influence on the background of the inability of the present political parties to address Israel’s burning challenges in a satisfactory way, give rise to considerable hope that the beginnings of tangible change, if not imminent, are at least close.


About the Author
The author served in the Prime Minister’s Office as a member of the intelligence community, is Vice Chairman of the Israel-Indonesia Chamber of Commerce, Vice-Chairman of the Israeli-German Society (IDG), Co-Chair of the Federation Movement (, member of the council at and author of "Identity: The Quest for Israel's Future".