What would Israeli politics look like with less polarization?
Israel has a multi-party political system, but basically it’s still a two-party system because most of the time, it’s the left against the right. (In Israel left and right are not determined by financial beliefs; rather, it is the belief that Jews are nothing special versus that they are). Within the right and within the left there is plenty of infighting, but still, the big debates are between the left and the right.
Two parties, one for and one against, they make political debate simple.
However, this arrangement also produce undesired side-effects:
- Lack of nuances in the positions
- Difficulty to understand the other side
- Inability to integrate ideas from both sides
- Lying and cheating, just in order not to lose
- Winning becomes more important than being right
- Making politics unattractive because most people hate fighting.
Often, civil servants work hard to help the government defend its positions. Instead, they could try to find the best ideas anywhere from anyone to suggest to the administration.
Much energy gets lost in finding fault with opponents and painting them as inferior or enemies. Instead, the focus could be on finding what’s good in the others’ positions.
Media attention is often used for each party to promote its position. Instead, each party could try to explain the strong points of the other party. Just imagine journalists always asking: In what respect do your opponent’s ideas make sense to you or seem desirable?
How could we increase intelligence and truth and diminish needless strife and exaggerated polarization in politics? How about having more working class, women, gays and of course lesbian women, handicapped, people of color and therapists in politics? People who know how to listen and to be a bit humble at times.
N.B.: Seeing both sides of the coin does not mean: being wishy-washy, taking no firm positions or being unresolved or dispassionate all the time.
May I conclude with one piece of common political wisdom that as teenager I picked up in The Netherlands? I had to learn as part of the national curriculum that democracy means: “The majority decides while taking minorities into account.” The popular Israeli idea “Democracy is: the majority decides” simply doesn’t work – for anyone.