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A RUMOR OF DEMOCRACY
by Gary Showalter

8:00 a.m. January 15, 2001 PDT

No amount of complimentary statements by Western politicians, or by members of the Israeli government, or sound bytes by judges on the Israeli Supreme Court can ever change the fact that the State of Israel is not, today, a democratic state.



IT IS OBVIOUS to everyone both here in Israel and abroad that the "Grand Experiment" of the Oslo Accords has proven a monumental failure. In studying the aftermath of this disaster, one can see a need for the architects of the Oslo Acords to be called to account for their actions. Understanding the structure of the Israeli government will help explain how such men and women were able to gain control of the State of Israel. From this, one can also see a desperate need for electoral reform within the Jewish State.

In fulfilling the conditions of the Oslo Accords, the governments of Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres and Ehud Barak committed the nation to one disastrous agreement with the PLO after another. In pursuit of the Oslo chimera every effort was made to silence any opposition to the Oslo Accords. These activities included violent attacks against right-wing opponents, placement of agents provocateur, scurrilous attacks on right-wing institutions and individuals in the press and instigating innumerable legal problems for the right-wing leadership.

Concomitantly, many of the leaders of the left-wing establishment entered into highly profitable commercial agreements with members of the Palestinian Administration. In any nation this conflict of interest would be sufficient cause for dismissal from the government, if not an indictable offense.

Mine is not the first voice to be raised in a call for accountability (see Ari Shavit; Israeli Left Should Take Responsibility For Oslo War; Ha'aretz; 22 February 2001), nor will it be the last. Those who brought this disaster upon the Israeli people, and those who worked to continue it over the last seven years must pay for the anguish they have wrought. Since the Oslo Accords were signed in October of 1993, more than 560 Jews have died in terror attacks, and an even larger number of Arabs have been killed during violent riots and attacks against Jewish civilians and Israeli military sites. Over four hundred people, Arabs and Jews, have lost their lives, and well over a thousand have been wounded only in the last seven months.

Not only have the Oslo Architects proven themselves irresponsible stewards of the security and prosperity of the State of Israel, they have actually worked to create and perpetuate divisions within Israeli society in order to protect their policies from dissent and close inspection.

Such is the weight of the disaster the architects and perpetrators of the Oslo Disaster have brought to this State that, at a minimum, they must never be allowed to hold public office again.

One should ask: How it is that such a thing could ever occur in Israel, which is often—and loudly—called the one and only democratic country in the Middle East?

Israelis are not by nature quiet or passive, particularly where their government is concerned. They are always willing to take part in protest marches, write faxes and OpEds, wave flags, and talk among themselves in an effort to change this or that policy of this or that government. But none of these actions has had any significant affect on how the Israeli government conducts its business, or on how the governments are formed.

Has anything that has happened over the last seven years of protest, turmoil and assassination made any substantial change in the Israeli system of government?

The answer is an unequivocal NO.

Political activism in Israel has had some successes. One might even think that such activities succeeded in bringing down the Barak government. But the same people are still in the Knesset (the Israeli Parliament), and still in positions to influence the decision-making process. Even worse, from the point of view of the average Israeli citizen, is that many members of the Peres/Rabin/Barak governments are now members of Ariel Sharon's administration, simply because he could not hope to remain in power without them.

There is an old saying: "A people deserves the form of government it has." If you don't like the form of government you've got, it's up to you to change it.

Israeli governments conduct their affairs without any need to account to their citizens. The Israeli form of government is based on coalitions of parties (interest groups) who receive seats in the Knesset based upon the number of votes they receive from the electorate. Each party then allocates seats to party members. Voters (i.e. citizens) have no say in who receives a seat in the Knesset, no say in what is traded off in coalition deals, and no say over who is appointed a Minister in any government.

Any party can promise anything to the voters during the run-up to an election, but once that party receives one or more seats in the Knesset it can do pretty much as it pleases. From that point on, remaining in the Knesset from one election to the next depends more on its success in negotiating deals with other parties than it does on fulfilling its promises to those who voted it into the Knesset. Political parties with seats in the Knesset often dissolve themselves, and even merge with other parties. Members of the Knesset can at will leave one party and join another. As the saying goes: "Once in, never out."

The government of Israel has no accountability to the citizens of the State of Israel. None. It is not a representative democracy according to the American model, nor is it a parliamentary democracy according to the British model, nor is it a democracy according to any other model.

According to Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913):
Democracy \De*moc"ra*cy\, n.; pl. {Democracies}. [F. d['e]mocratie, fr. Gr. dhmokrati`a; dh^mos the people + kratei^n to be strong, to rule, kra`tos strength.]
  1. Government by the people; a form of government in which the supreme power is retained and directly exercised by the people. [Italics mine]

  2. Government by popular representation; a form of government in which the supreme power is retained by the people, but is indirectly exercised through a system of representation and delegated authority periodically renewed; a constitutional representative government; a republic. [Italics mine]

  3. Collectively, the people, regarded as the source of government.—Milton.
No amount of complimentary statements by American or British politicians, or by members of the Israeli government, or sound bytes by judges on the Israeli Supreme Court can ever change the fact that the State of Israel is not, today, a democratic state. Either they are all incredibly ignorant of what democracy is, or they are trying very hard to hide something.

Israeli citizens live their lives according to the whim of the men and women who hold seats in the Knesset, people who owe their seats not to the voters but to the party that gave them their seats. They don't have to concern themselves with will of the people. They don't owe them anything.

Israeli citizens do not—and cannot—vote for them, and if the politicians in Israel have anything to say about it, they never will.

"Shinui is fighting against religious coercion, against the attempts of rabbis to turn Israel into a Halachic State, against the corruption of the ultra-orthodox and against the evasion of army service."
Consider the platforms of these parties:
  • Meretz espouses the creation of a Palestinian State within the current borders of the State of Israel, the dismantling of many Jewish communities to make room for that state, the withdrawal from the Golan, and so on.

  • The Arab Democratic Party, founded in 1988 by Abdel Wahab Daroushe, focuses on achievement of full equality for Israeli Arabs and on full Israeli withdraw from the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, as well as the establishment of a Palestinian state.

  • Arab Movement for Change (AMC), formed in 1996 by Dr. Ahmed Tibi, hoped to serve as a united party for all Arabs. AMC is controversial among Israelis since Tibi was in secret contact, on behalf of the Israeli peace movement, with the PLO before the Oslo Accords were signed. Tibi also serves as principal advisor to Yasser Arafat.
Those parties—and many others like them—all hold seats in the current Knesset of the State of Israel. They are the people who make the decisions that affect the lives of the People of Israel, and the lives of their children. Israeli tax revenues support not only every legitimate expenditure made for defense, medical care and education, but also go to support every private interest group in the Knesset, including those that actively call for the dismemberment of the State of Israel.

But the Israeli citizens, who pay the taxes to keep them in their Knesset seats, who serve in the police and armed forces, who work in the schools and hospitals, in the greenhouses and grocery stores, have no voice in their government. Yet, those same Israeli citizens are the ones who are dying in the streets. Husbands, wives and children.

What kind of lunacy is this?

The same people who voted the State of Israel into being established the current form of government. It suited their worldview, which was basically socialist. It continues to exist because it suits the people who hold the seats in the Knesset, and the people who run the various parties and the interests they serve. It works just fine—for them.

But it doesn't serve the citizens of the State of Israel. The government of the State of Israel is designed to allow the "Elite" of the State of Israel to govern without interference. According to their worldview, they know better than the average citizen what needs to be done. That arrogance is why the common citizen was never given the right to vote directly for members of Knesset. The "Elite" do not want to be held accountable to those they govern. As Shimon Peres said in the Jerusalem Post International Edition, December 23, 1995, "As a protégé of David Ben Gurion, I subscribe to his philosophy that 'I may not know what the people want; I do know what is good for the people.'"

Yes, Israel is commonly called the only democracy in the Middle East, usually by people who should—and probably do—know better. But it was never meant to be, and is not now, a democracy. The people of Israel, who pay the taxes and die in the wars and see their loved ones torn apart in terror attacks, do not have any means under the laws of Israel to call the Oslo Architects to account for their criminal folly.

The phrases "The Oslo Process" and "The Peace Process" are gone from the lexicons of most governments, and are now only seen as historical references. What is now common in Israeli newspapers is the phrase, "The Oslo War." The number of dead and wounded on both sides, Israeli and Palestinian, continues to grow on a daily basis.

The people of Israel face the ever-increasing likelihood of a regional war in the very near future. This is a people racked by deep separations on the lines of religion, politics and economics, and with very little trust in the institutions of their government.

This is what the Oslo Architects have wrought. It is for this that they must be called to account for their actions. And that is why it is so important that the people of Israel bring about electoral reform.

"To secure these [inalienable] rights [to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness], governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed...Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness." — Thomas Jefferson, Declaration of Independence, 1776.
For the sake of the children of the State of Israel and their children, the citizens of the State of Israel must bring about electoral reform that will make the Members of Knesset accountable to the citizens of the State of Israel. That will place the power and authority of the government of the State of Israel where it belongs—in the hands of its citizens.

Perhaps all of this will occur, if Israel survives this next war.

<<
Gary Showalter is a novelist and independent journalist, specializing in political issues surrounding the Middle East. Recent articles by the author include:
Strategic Terror Attacks within the United States
Tactical Terror Attacks within the United States
The Misunderstood Object of War
Peeling the Onion
The Long View

Article copyright © Gary Showalter; all rights reserved
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