Why our politicians REALLY fear representative government

Building upon a previous article, in which I described the importance of electoral reform and previous attempts to achieve it, I want now to suggest why our MKs may not want to change the current system. Even with all our growing cosmopolitan experience, Israelis remain a boisterous and opinionated bunch! Our politicians know full well that we will not be as docile as electorates in other nations. If we do achieve the electoral reform that will give us regional representatives in the Knesset, we will write, phone, visit and generally hound them when votes are coming due and to tell them clearly what laws we think they should initiate in the legislature.

Is it no wonder, then, that they balk at the possibility of electoral reform? It is far easier to “simply” negotiate the halls of political shenanigans when all you have to worry about is the membership of your own party, those who supposedly believe in the same things as you do. How much harder it will be to be an active MK when you are representing people who come from different positions on the political spectrum.

Just as I would vote for a Haredi or Arab candidate if that person seemed the best one to represent my views and needs of my region, I am sure many other Israelis would find themselves open to doing the same. There are currently a small number of Haredi and Arab members of non-Haredi and non-Arab parties, and these numbers may grow if the electoral system changes and parties seek out the best local people to put up for election. Perhaps the Arab and Haredi parties fear this as it would drain them of exclusivity and, therefore, of their sectorial political clout.

At the same time, if Stav Shafir was running in my region, I would vote for her, even though, under the current electoral system, I would not vote for the party to which she belongs. It is possible that the large parties are afraid of the freedom electoral reform means for individual voters.

I can’t help but wonder if Hanan Zoabi or Ahmed Tibi would have much electoral success were they to run in regional elections rather than under the current party system. It is true that both these controversial figures have introduced and supported socially beneficial laws, but would they be able to continue their anti-Zionist rhetoric and apparent preference for supporting “Palestinians” outside of Israel, or would the Arab electorate within Israel demand more focus on law and order in Israeli Arab towns and other issues of local interest? If so, that would certainly be a positive move for all of us, but would take out some of the glitter anti-Zionist Arab politicians now enjoy on the international stage.

Those MKs, both current and potentially future ones, who like to work hard, to research the issues of the day, to meet with their electorate, etc., have nothing to fear from electoral reform. But those who prefer to pull the party line, to maneuver themselves with an eye to party apparatus, are likely apprehensive of any change to our electoral system as they will find themselves on unfamiliar seas without a recognizable map, unable to understand the constellations in the sky. Their discomfort is not reason enough for us to avoid electoral reform.

About the Author
Sheri Oz, owner of www.israeldiaries.com, is a retired family therapist exploring mutual interactions between politics and Israeli society.
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