Archive for Representation

The February Knesset Elections

The press reports that 43 parties are registered to run in Israel’s February 10, 2009 Knesset elections. This absurd phenomenon is the direct consequence of Israel’s (divisive) parliamentary electoral system.

As I have frequently pointed out, Israel, contrary almost all other reputed democracies, makes the country a single electoral district in which a multiplicity of party slates compete for Knesset seats on the basis Proportional Representation. This multiplicity of parties is compounded by Israel’s low electoral threshold, now 2%.

Although the Foundation for Constitutional Democracy prefers personal and direct election of Knesset members, the very least the next Knesset can do is to raise the electoral threshold, say to 4%. This would effectively eliminate most parties and compel others to run on a joint list.

A 4% threshold—once proposed by the late MK Rehavim Ze’evi—would probably lead to four party coalitions: a left-center coalition, a right-center coalition, a religious coalition, and an Arab coalition. Running on a joint list would tend to enlarge the mentality of each of the parties composing a coalition, since they would have to campaign on a common party platform. » Continue reading “The February Knesset Elections”

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Democracy and the Secret “Rule of Law” in Israel

There is much misunderstanding in the Diaspora and even in Israel about Israel's system of government—an assortment of institutions that endow a few men with concealed and despotic power.

A basic reason for this pernicious state of affairs is Israel, unlike France or the United States, has no written constitution. Instead, Israel has a crazy-quilt variety of “Basic Laws” passed at different times by different governments led by different political parties.

Israel's first Basic Law, The Knesset, was initiated by the Knesset Law Committee in 1958, ten years after the founding of the State. Some other Basic Laws are Israel Lands (1960); The President of the State (1964); The Government (1968); The State Economy (1975); The Army (1979); Jerusalem, Capital of Israel (1980); The Judiciary (1984).

A word about Basic Law: The Government. This law stipulates, “The Government is competent to do in the name of the State, subject to any law, any act whose doing is not enjoined by law upon another authority.” The Government can therefore declare war, make treaties, and change the exchange rate without ever consulting the Knesset! » Continue reading “Democracy and the Secret “Rule of Law” in Israel”

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Two Cheers

Two cheers for Nathan D. Wirtschafter, a member of the Likud, whose article in The Jerusalem Post (September 11, 2008), “Direct elections begin with the Likud primary” comes close to advocating some of the institutional reform proposals of the Foundation for Constitutional Democracy and of the Yamin Israel Party.

Mr. Wirtschafter calls for “regional elections with single-member districts, a professional cabinet and a new judicial selection system … ”

To propose a professional cabinet is to propose, in effect, separation between the executive and legislative branches of government. The proposed cabinet would then no longer consist of the leaders of rival political parties (one of the root causes of Israel’s malaise). Mr. Wirtschafter could have clarified matters by simply and explicitly calling for a presidential system of government.

Unfortunately, his party leader, Binyamin Netanyahu, in an interview with the Russian Chanel-7, rejected district elections as well as a presidential system of government—and on the most frivolous grounds. As if he never heard of the U.S. House of Representatives and its 435 districts but only two political parties, Netanyahu said that district elections in Israeli would produce sixty political parties! » Continue reading “Two Cheers”

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Hong Kong

Hong Kong, or rather the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), has a total area of 422 square miles on which reside some seven million people—roughly the same as Israel’s in the year 2000, when I first published this report.

Hong Kong has a 60-member legislature. The legislature represents 5 Geographical Constituencies and 28 Functional Constituencies. The 5 Geographical Constituencies are represented by 24 members. The 28 Functional Constituencies (e.g., Education, Finance, Medicine, Labor, etc.) are represented by 30 members. (Labor has three representatives). The remaining 6 members of the legislature are the Election Committee.

Over three million registered voters had the right to vote in the Geographical Constituencies. The list voting system is used in the election. A voter can only choose one of the lists printed on the ballot paper (comparable to Israel’s system of list voting).

In contrast, Preferential voting is employed in four Functional Constituencies. » Continue reading “Hong Kong”

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Needed: A Jewish State in Israel

The socialists who founded modern Israel were committed not to a Jewish state so much as to a secular democratic state. The economic goals of socialism, however, require a concentration of political-economic power in government. Socialism therefore eventuates in state capitalism—the control of a nation's wealth by political commissars.

However democratic Israel may be from a sociological perspective, it is ruled by rotating oligarchy that has truncated and emasculated the Jewish state.

The oligarchy is ensconced in the cabinet. There, cabinet ministers control various sectors of the economy, and do so less with a view to economic efficiency than with a view to enlarging their own personal or partisan power.

One researcher notes that the rate at which the salary of Knesset Members (MKs) increases is three times that of the average Israeli. » Continue reading “Needed: A Jewish State in Israel”

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Poli. Sci. 101 for MK Yitzhak Levy

Edited transcript of the Eidelberg Report, Israel National Radio, June 23, 2008.

Knesset Member Yitzhak Levy wants to raise the number of Knesset members from 120 to 150. As reported in The Jerusalem Post last week (June 18, 2008), Levy complains that “the workload placed on MKs had grown to such an extent that it was simply impossible to adequately study the issues upon which MKs were expected to vote in a plenum, as well as in committees in which they sit.”

Mr. Levy also complains that, given the system of coalition cabinet government, some 30 MKs—one out of every four members—currently serves as either a minister or deputy minister, and that’s an additional assignment which distracts from their participation in the legislative function.

Levy’s proposal to increase the Knesset’s membership may be indicative of the incompetence of Israel’s legislative body. Let’s compare the Knesset with the American House of Representatives, beginning with the House. » Continue reading “Poli. Sci. 101 for MK Yitzhak Levy”

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To Disenfranchise or to Empower the Jewish People

The present writer congratulates those members of the Knesset that supported a bill whereby 60 MKs would be elected in regional districts, while 60 would be elected under the present system of Proportional Representation. This fulfills one provision of a draft constitution set forth in my book Jewish Statesmanship: Lest Israel Fall (2000)—which is not to say this book should be credited for the bill in question.

Although the bill was vetoed by the Shas Party, a member of Ehud Olmert’s coalition government, it should soon resurface as a private member’s bill. At stake is the empowerment of the Jewish people and even the preservation of Israel’s Jewish heritage.

It cannot be said too often that the law that makes Israel a single electoral district in which fixed party slates win Knesset seats via Proportional Representation has effectively disenfranchised the Jews of this country. This law has enabled members of the Knesset, especially those who become prime ministers or cabinet ministers, to violate the abiding beliefs and values of the Jewish people with impunity. A conspicuous culprit is Shas. » Continue reading “To Disenfranchise or to Empower the Jewish People”

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Theocracy Versus Judaism: How the Jews of Israel Have Been Deceived and Disempowered (III)

Part three of a series. View Part one. View Part two.

B. Neither God Nor the People Rule Israel

In Judaism there is no ruling class. In a truly Jewish community, who rules is based primarily on intellectual and moral character. Indeed, the most authentic form of Jewish leadership is that of the teacher, whose power is not political but intellectual and moral.

The fact that education in Israel is required of all members of the community precludes rigid class divisions. Conversely, Torah education is the great unifying force of the Jewish people, a people that honors scholars more than kings. As Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch points out, in a mature Jewish community the center of gravity lies not in any ruling class but in the body of the people. It is hardly an exaggeration to say, therefore, that the leaders of a Jewish community act consistently with the Torah when they make themselves superfluous!

See to it that the peasant behind the plough, the herdsman with his cattle, the weaver at his loom can be your judges and masters, the critics of your conduct and teaching; then at the same time will they be your pupils and friends, they will willingly and joyfully follow your teachings and regulations; they will understand and appreciate the spirit in which you speak and by which you are guided.[1] » Continue reading “Theocracy Versus Judaism: How the Jews of Israel Have Been Deceived and Disempowered (III)”

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Hidden Causes of Corruption and Treason in Israel

Edited transcript of the Eidelberg Report, Israel National Radio, June 2, 2008.

 

Part I: Corruption

I have pointed out many times that corruption in Israel’s government is not simply the consequence of dishonest politicians. Political corruption in Israel has been institutionalized; and as I will show in a moment, so has treason!

The Jerusalem Post’s brilliant columnist Caroline Glick touches the surface—but only the surface—of institutionalized corruption in her column of May 30. With less than her usual clarity, she attributes political corruption to the “relative weakness” of the Knesset:

The Knesset’s relative weakness [she writes] is a function of Israel’s proportional election system. This system—whereby voters select a party rather than individual candidates at the ballot box—promotes the political fortunes of the corrupt and the weak at the expense of the honest and strong. Similarly, it prolongs the life span of coalition governments with a tendency toward corruption and failed policy-making, at the expense of coalition governments [sic] informed by principle and the national interest.

The “weakness:” Glick attributes to the Knesset is not solely the result of, and does not begin with, proportional representation. » Continue reading “Hidden Causes of Corruption and Treason in Israel”

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Two-and-a-Half Cheers for Caroline Glick

Two-and-a-half cheers for Caroline Glick. In reaction the Ehud Olmert corruption case, Caroline Glick has begun to advance the position which the Foundation for Constitutional Democracy has so frequently and extensively articulated during the past thirteen years: the need to scrap Israel’s dysfunctional and corruption-laden system of proportional representation.

In partial explanation of governmental corruption and incompetence in Israel, Glick writes (The Jerusalem Post, May 30, 2008):

“The Knesset’s relative weakness [really its shady character and lack of accountability—PE] is a function of Israel’s proportional election system. This system—whereby voters select a party rather than individual candidates at the ballot box—promotes the political fortunes of the corrupt and the weak at the expense of the honest and strong. Similarly, it prolongs the life span of coalition governments with a tendency toward corruption and failed policy-making, at the expense of coalition governments [sic] informed by principle and the national interest.” » Continue reading “Two-and-a-Half Cheers for Caroline Glick”

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