The Foundation for Constitutional Democracy


Israel’s Dire Water Problem

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By Prof. Paul Eidelberg

It was known fifty and more years ago that Israel had a serious water
problem. Why have various Israeli governments failed to deal with this

Some will say that Israel has been so distracted by wars and countless
terrorist attacks that its various governments have been preoccupied with
security issues. Others may say that politicians, like people in general,
are not inclined to address themselves to long-range problems. They are
preoccupied with immediate concerns. Only when things hurt do they react.

There is some truth in these views. Nevertheless, one would think that,
over the course of decades, some ambitious Knesset Member (MK) would have
made Israel’s water problem a number one issue, for its own sake and/or to
make a name for himself. Alternatively, one might expect a group of
concerned citizens to lobby a Knesset Member to make Israel’s water problem
his political cause. This would be so “natural”: a politician serving his
own personal interests while serving the national interest. Happens all the
time in the United States and in other democracies.

It’s not likely, or less likely, to happen in Israel, even in the case of
Israel’s water problem. The reason is this. Israel does not have
multi-district or constituency elections whereby an individual MK can make a
name for himself by championing a particular cause. Conversely, a group of
concerned citizens can hardly lobby, with effectiveness, a Knesset Member
whose seat is dependent not on the votes of some constituency, but on his
party bosses.

Just remember: the 1999 Knesset elections saw 29 MKs hop over to rival
parties. This could never happen if Israel had multi-district elections-the
case of 74 our of 75 democratic countries.

So long as the country constitutes a single electoral district whereby
parties, with fixed lists of candidates, compete for power, don’t expect
political responsibility on the part of the Knesset, hence of cabinet
ministers. Because this parliamentary system enables politicians to ignore
public opinion with impunity, it also allows them to disregard problems of
national concern.

The fact that 91 MKs did nothing to change a parliamentary system that
permits 29 other MKs to join rival parties reveals the shoddy character of
Israel’s political institutions. Therein is the basic cause of Israel’s
water problem. And not only water. The fact is that Israel’s parliamentary
system renders the government incapable of dealing effectively with
security, unemployment, and the decay in health care and other public

Until public-spirited citizens unite to reform Israel’s inept and corrupt
parliamentary system, they will forever be reacting to the SYMPTOMS and not
the CAUSES of Israel’s malaise.