As a recently arrived Oleh Chadash, I proudly made Aliyah to Jerusalem, the historic, ancient capital of the world’s only Jewish nation. A small, but impressive state that I and others have often called the only democracy in the Middle East.
I am ashamed to admit that I was completely wrong.
On March 23, 2021, I eagerly walked with great seriousness of mind and determination of soul to my local polling station. With tremendous pride and joy, I cast my first vote as a citizen of Israel. As an immigrant from the world’s “premier”, model democracy, it was not the first time in my life that I had voted for a government and the leadership of a country.
It was also not the first time that I was prepared to discover that my preferred government might not be the government that would lead the nation. It goes with the territory of democratic voting and elections that sometimes the “other side” wins. However, no matter who wins, confidence in knowing that the winner is the direct outcome of the people’s votes helps to moderate the potential pain and to mildly assuage the grief of election outcomes that don’t fit one’s personal voting preferences.
In other words, even if the opposing party wins, it’s possible to take solace in the fact that it is, at the very least, the direct result of the people’s election will. The “people” meaning myself, along with my neighbor, whose views might actually be from another planet when compared to mine. I may not like discovering that my crazy neighbor’s candidate won and that my candidate lost, but you can be damn sure that I want my neighbor’s vote to fully count.
This is because his vote is no different than my vote in that if his “crazy” vote doesn’t count, then neither does my “sane” vote. And I sure as hell want my vote to fully count. Which is why it’s imperative that my neighbor’s vote also counts. In this one regard, his “wacky” vote is my vote and my “sensible” vote is his vote because, when it comes to voting and the fundamental responsibilities and rights of citizens, we must all be equal.
Or none of us are.
Now, as I cast my first vote as an Israeli citizen, I was nevertheless acutely aware of the fact that for some citizens, this was not their first vote. Nor their second vote. Nor was it their third vote. But in fact, for many, it was their fourth vote… An ominous trend, to say the least.
As I walked proudly out of the polling station that cold night, passing my neighbors on the street, sending selfies to my friends and family, and glowing inside at the opportunity to exercise my civic duty, I was, as I must now abashedly confess, naively unaware of how utterly meaningless my vote actually was. It turns out that I probably would have accomplished more personal and collective civic good by instead using that vote to wipe my self prior to flushing the toilet.
I do not say any of this because of which party has (or has not) won the government. Rather, only because of how the government itself has been formed. As Israeli law currently defines the implementation and execution of elections, the formation of the Israeli government really has nothing to do with the electoral will of the Israeli citizenry.
This is a frightening discovery.
To my great shock and dismay, it turns out that government formation in Israel has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the will of the people, but, rather, the will of a small club of 120 politicians that can, and have, subverted the stated will of the nation’s citizens to advance their own personal gains and vendettas. This should distress, upset and enrage every Israeli citizen of every stripe and color from every paradigm and corner of society. It doesn’t matter if one’s preferred party has/hasn’t won the mandate if the method is not democratic. It doesn’t matter who wins/looses if 120 politicians can take the votes of the people and flush them down the Knesset latrines.
In Israel, an absurdly tiny group of politicians (a vocation historically and universally characterized by theft, manipulation and deceit) decides for themselves, whether or not to abide by the will of the people. These politicians may be very skilled at vomiting clever rhetoric that obfuscates the truth, but it still doesn’t change this simple fact: In Israel the 120 politicians of the Knesset do not serve at the pleasure of the will of the people. Rather, the people serve at the pleasure of the will of the politicians. This is a stunning reversal and the complete opposite of democracy.
In other words, here in Israel, the little, filthy tail wags the large, sacred dog.
So, Israel is in fact not actually a democracy at all. It turns out that, in reality, it’s nothing more than another banana republic. One that a long line of Latin American dictators would certainly recognize as familiar and surely be proud of.
But I am not proud at all.
I am deeply ashamed. Ashamed at the apparent sheer electoral stupidity of the world’s only Jewish state. A state that has accomplished wonders, but can’t even elect a democratic leader in a democratic manner and instead deploys a transparently foolish, and openly dishonest, shell game of vote theft, all while the average Israeli citizen appears to be too dumb, indifferent or lazy to care.
But Israelis are not dumb…They are in fact the smartest kids on the block.
They are not indifferent…They are amongst the most engaged and passionate people you will ever encounter.
And they are definitely not lazy…The innovation and production that this tiny country contributes to the world greatly out matches its size.
So what gives?
How is it that the citizens of our nation can vote and then, before our very eyes, watch our votes sold and bought openly like slaves in a slave market with no inherent dignity or rights of their own? We all know that the profiteers in human trafficking have no respect for the bodies they buy, sell and trade. Likewise, our shameless politicians brazenly lie, cheat and steal, openly deceiving the public and dismissing the will of the people as meaningless waste paper. All the while smugly congratulating themselves for their shrewdness and earnestly insisting that they have maintained their own ethical purity and righteousness.
These politicians are so adept at lying, they have succeeded in deceiving even themselves. G-d forbid that any of us continue to be taken in by their machinations and crafty sleight of hand. Israel, the only Jewish state, and Israelis, the industrious citizens of this remarkable oasis in the Middle East, deserve far better than this. Our pioneers aspired to something greater and laid the vital foundations for our success. We owe it to them and to ourselves to not settle for the mediocre excuses of 120 sniveling politicians.
It should go without saying that there is something fundamentally wrong with any election system that can’t get it right the first time. And it should be extremely obvious, and now apparent to all, that any system that is actually designed such that it can fail the first time and then go on to fail a second time and then proceed to fail again a third time, is a system has contains a fatal flaw that cannot be tolerated and must be fixed without delay.
This is not an indictment of the storied individuals who developed our electoral system. Incredible, pioneering men and women for whom we have the utmost love, honor and respect. Rather, this is about tweaking design bugs in our electoral system so that it can keep up with the demands of the times we live in.
Refining our election system to maintain pace with the modern requirements of our robust nation is not a concession of defeat in any way whatsoever. Rather, “fixing” our broken election system is simply a demonstration of Israeli intelligence, innovation, courage and determination to lead the world in every capacity at every opportunity. We are not afraid to confront difficult challenges and overcome them. Including, even, showing the nations how to improve democratic elections in a region of the world that desperately continues to need the smart, brave and bold leadership that Israel has always been known for.
In other words, as much as we Israelis might genuinely respect and honor the sturdy and lovingly worn “wooden cart” that we have inherited from our courageous founding forefathers, and which has, against all odds, shepherded us through many harrowing situations and has somehow miraculously survived and brought us this far, it is, nevertheless, time for a major upgrade. It is now time to respectfully retire the rickety Israeli election cart to a place of quiet honor and to install, in its place, a roaring modern election vehicle. One that is a sleek and gleaming wonder of Jewish engineering. An efficient and powerful machine that hums with plasma coursing through its engines. A democratic mechanism that can instantly accelerate, carrying the entire nation forward into the future and leaving the tired, confused past in the dust.
But this has yet to be done.
As things currently are, every single Israeli is actually a slave of 120 political masters who do not have any practical motivation or interest in giving us the time of day, let alone answering to us in any real way whatsoever. And so, not surprisingly, they don’t. This is not a situation that any Israeli would normally tolerate and it’s an incredible feat of social and psychological engineering that the majority of Israeli citizens have been tricked into accepting such an outrageous and blatant manipulation of the masses by a small group of politicians. No Israeli wants to be a freier. But 120 Knesset politicians have made every Israeli citizen exactly that.
We simply cannot afford to have another election in which the will of the people is trampled by a flawed system that is willfully taken advantage of by a cadre of shameless politicians who have no respect for the rule of law, let alone the people the law exists to protect. The Knesset is full of politicians from every side and persuasion who nevertheless have one unifying trait in common: Contempt for the votes of the Israeli citizenry.
This is surely the single most dangerous outcome of the recent election odyssey. But it is also a gift to each and every Israeli citizen. The politicians have now been revealed for what they truly are and the flaw in the system has been brought into the light. So now we know who we are dealing with and what needs to be done for the sake of the nation and the future of the Jewish people.
Election reform is something that only an enemy of the people would oppose.
We must demand immediate election reform and we must take the names of every politician who opposes it. Until the citizens of Israel demand that the government serve the people, we will surely continue to descend into a confusion and madness that is uniquely ours. As has been said before in a far less urgent and less serious context, “With great power comes great responsibility.” With the profoundly great abilities that Israelis seem to possess comes the potential for great trouble if we do not collectively learn to take our individual responsibilities seriously.
Responsibilities such as holding the puny group of 120 self-serving politicians in the Knesset accountable to and responsible for implementing the formation of a government that the people have decided upon, whether the politicians like it or not. And with stark, severe consequences if they don’t comply with the will of the people.
So yes, I really do actually mean that I would rather have an authentic democratic Israeli election and see the opposing side win, than to have another pseudo-election and see my party win. And yes, I also mean that the election laws should be changed to assert the power of the Israeli citizens directly over their politicians. Until this happens, all Israeli elections are nothing more than expensive Las Vegas magic acts:
Every dictator of every banana republic surely sees himself as the hero in the story, fighting to save the people from the evil phantoms of previous leaders. At least, that is certainly the clever argument broadcast to the masses while the new regime in fact merely spreads a new shroud of corruption over the pre-existing problems of former administrations.
Having discovered that all Israeli votes, combined, are less valuable than a single square of the cheapest toilet paper at my local supermarket, I can’t help but wonder if I will even bother to vote in the next election, whenever that may be. Undoubtedly, that is exactly what a real banana republic dictator would hope to hear from the average citizen.
If he can see us all the way from his current abode, and if he would even bother to watch such ridiculous nonsense as an Israeli “election”, I’m sure that Fidel has a wry, knowing smile on that weathered face of his.