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Aug 24, 2006

Will it make a difference?

Israel’s government is in a fragile state right now. Because of all the scandals and the problems the way the war was managed, we seem to be nearing the end of the current government. People do not want Olmert to continue in his position, nor Peretz.

While people make mistakes and you could just say they made some bad decisions and there is no need to resign, that is not the case here. The mistakes were phenomenal. They were not mistakes that I claim were made just because I would have liked to see him make a different decision. They are mistakes that are obvious to all, and they were made because those in power were not capable of making the correct decisions. Therefore the current leadership needs to step down. If they do not, eventually they will be brought down, either by their own internal problems or by the eventual Commission of Inquiry.

But will it make a difference?

I am not convinced that it will. Yes, these guys have to go so it should happen whether it makes a difference or not. But we should be aware that our problems will not be solved by whoever will be victorious in the next set of elections which are looming. We may not have these exact problems, but we will have problems.

The past few governments have been extremely unstable (with the exception of Ariel Sharon’s government). As soon as they did something others in their coalition did not like, they were brought down. There is no reason to expect anything different for the near future. The leaders of all those governments were not strong leaders and they were limited in their options and handcuffed by their own personalities.

The problem really lies with our electoral system. Israel’s government is a parliamentary system. I do not know how it is different than other parliamentary systems, such as England, but it must be. The government of England does not fall every 2-3 years and require new elections, while Israel’s does (and this time it looks like it will be even sooner). Why is it different, I do not know, but it is.

The government is fractured by many small parties. The parties present a list of their candidates and people vote for the party of their choice, generally based on party platform, but also based on the personalities of the candidates in each list. As many votes as each party pulls in will make the final count of how many reps it sends to the Knesset, and how much weight it has in negotiations for the coalition, thus allowing each party to achieve more or less of its stated goals.

There are a lot of parties that run in the elections. With a minimum threshold that needs to be passed to get into the Knesset, we have ended up with a few medium sized parties (Likud, Labor, and now Kadima – by medium size I am not relating to the phenomenon that occurred in the last elections, because I think Likud will regain some of its status and return to being a medium size party) and a bunch of fairly small parties. The small parties end up wielding disproportional amounts of power and that brings about instability in the government. If the PM then steps on someone’s toes, his coalition is threatened.

We have also experienced parties turning their backs on their voters and pushing platforms that are even the exact opposite of what they promised during the elections, yet still claiming they had the mandate from the people who voted for them! That along with the personalities in the government that people are upset with, due to many of them being involved in various levels of investigation, indictment and just general bad press, puts our government in a bad situation.

So, when we have new elections in a few months or whenever, the next government formed will have its own set of problems, just as the last 6 or so have had.

How can we solve the problem? How can we improve the government so we do not have this instability?

I believe that the electoral method has to be changed. But it needs to be changed completely, not halfway like they tried a few years ago.

A few years ago some politicians came up with the idea that the system was unstable and they needed to implement direct elections. They decided to do it in stages and they left most of the system in place while only making the election of the Prime minister by direct election. In other words, a voter would make 2 selections in his vote. He would select one of two or three candidates for Prime Minister and he would select a party for Knesset. It was thought this would make the PM less beholden to the influence of the smaller parties, as he was voted in directly by the people.

In truth it was found that the situation became less stable. The PMs became more controlled by the small parties, because the small parties were given more power by the people. For example, people who wanted Netanyahu to be PM did not need to vote for Likud. They could vote for Netanyahu and Shas, or Netanyahu and Shinui or Barak and Aguda, or Peres and Moledet, whatever combination they felt like voting for.

We need to change the system to a style of direct elections. Every single Member of Knesset needs to be directly elected by the people. If an MK from Shas, or Likud, or Aguda, or Shinui, or Labor or any party represents a certain area, he will work for the benefits and interests of all members of the area within his representation. The parties need to field candidates around the country each representing a certain area or some sort of division. If the voters like a certain candidate’s personality and platform, they will vote for him. He will then be beholden to the voters and have to show progress and success or they will not vote him back in office in the next elections.

No more of being involved in scandals. No more flip-flopping on your position. If you do not keep your word, you will not keep your seat.

We need direct elections. The power needs to be in the hands of the people, not in the hands of the parties.

Until then, we are just looking at more of the same.


    ive been saying that ever since both supermarkets in my neighborhood closed and we had no where to shop except the overly prices, overly crowded makolets...

  2. that's right. No taxation with representation!! and lower the prices in our spermarkets! (rumor has it that soon a new supermarket will be moving into the old ZolPo location...)

  3. direct elections, districts =
    GERRYMANDERING the art of forming districts to control the outcome.

    This happens all over, and Israel will bring it to new heights or depths or just place hell they call democracy.

    Don't worry. I'll still include your otherwise excellent post in the next hh.

  4. muse - gerrymandering is a legitimate problem, but I still think it will be much better than it is now.
    in Texas the Republicans recently changed the districting to change the level of representation in their favor, so it does happen.
    But even if it does, the elected reps will still have to work for the benefit of those in the respective districts. The control they will get by gerrymandering is limited. A religious rep in a secular neighborhood will still have to work for the interests of the secular or he will be less likely to get re-elected. A secular in a religious neighborhood will have to be concerned about religious needs. A left wing rep in a right wing neighborhood. Right wing rep in left wing neighborhood. Sure they will create the districts to effect specific outcomes, but at the end of the day the elected reps will still have to work for the people in his district.

  5. I think it would also get people to vote more. Imagine if the chareidi community felt they were better respresented? I know many people like me who also vote more. Alas... i think we are dreaming....

  6. whats - Haredim are generally against such ideas. They fear they will end up losing. The common claim is that they are afraid of exactly what muse said. The secular government will divide things up in a way that will give the haredim as little power as possible. I say it does not matter because the elected officials will still have to take the concerns of the haredim in his area into consideration....

    social - I am about involved as it took to write that post!

  7. Thanks for this post. Like many, I've been trying to figure out the time/instability factors of Israeli government since the war ended. (Did the war end?) Anyway, your post answered some of my questions. Thanks.

  8. yakova - happy it helped you understand. if you have any questions, feel free to ask and I will explain to the best of my ability...


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