The Foundation for Constitutional Democracy


An Exercise in Political Logic: A Challenge to American Zionists

Filed under: Democratic MethodsRepresentationThe Diaspora — eidelberg @ 4:54 am

1. It is well known that Ehud Olmert, who is primarily responsible for Israel’s defeat in the Second Lebanese War, is the most inept and least respected prime minister in Israel’s history.

2. Therefore, in view of the emerging nuclear threat from Iran and the proximate threat of its proxies, Hezbollah in the north and Hamas in the south, Mr. Olmert is a clear and present danger to Israel’s survival.

3. Nevertheless, Mr. Olmert is safely ensconced in office. Although his Kadima Party won only 29 seats in the Knesset, Olmert has a solid Knesset majority, thanks to the seats of his coalition partners: Labor (19), Shas (12), Israel Beiteinu (11), and Gil Pensioners (7)—in all, 78 out of 120. Hence, there is virtually no chance of his succumbing to a Knesset vote of no-confidence. Since such a thing has never happened to any Labor- or Likud-led government, and since impeachment is out of the question, Mr. Olmert will probably remain Israel’s prime minister for another three years (Heaven help us!).

4. I say “Heaven help us” because there is almost no possibility of Israel being saved by its reputedly democratic system of government. Indeed, if political theorist Henry Mayo’s criterion of democracy is correct, namely, that “A political system is democratic to the extent that the decision-makers are under effective popular control,” then Israel’s reputation as a democracy is undeserved, for it’s quite obvious the people of Israel have no effective control over the Olmert government. Olmert himself has a public approval rating of only 3 percent! Clearly, something is very wrong—dangerously wrong—with Israel’s political system. And it’s hardly a consolation to say that Israel is democratic compared to its autocratic Arab neighbors.

5. It follows that the existential threat confronting Israel is magnified by its undemocratic political system, more precisely, by the simple fact that citizens are compelled to vote for party slates. To be still more precise, members of the Knesset—from which the nation derives its prime minister and cabinet ministers—are not individually elected by, or accountable to, the voters in constituency elections. Since Israel’s cabinet ministers are party leaders, the Knesset is subservient to the government. In other words, the Knesset is not an independent body. It is almost impossible for the Knesset to topple the government and save Israel from its bungling prime minister.

6. Surely every Knesset member is aware of the decadent nature of this parliamentary system. Yet we look in vain for any concerted effort to change it—perhaps because MKs hope to become cabinet ministers, the road to power and political longevity. If so, it would follow that what animates virtually all MKs is not the good of the nation but their own personal interests.

7. Now, inasmuch as Israel’s political system undermines Israel’s national security, then, to the extent that America’s own security depends on Israel, it becomes the duty as well as the right of American Zionists to expose the flaws of Israel’s political system.

8. That the security of the United States depends, to no small extent, on Israel can be gleaned from the following considerations. Gen. George Keegan, former head of U.S. Air Force Intelligence, said that Israeli intelligence is worth five CIA’s. Hence Joseph Sisco, a former Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, could say to Israeli author Samuel Katz: “I want to assure you, Mr. Katz, that if we were not getting full value for our money, you would not get a cent from us.” America needs a strong Israel, but Israel is often paralyzed by its dysfunctional system of government, which entrenches incompetents and worse in power.

9. Unfortunately, American Zionist organizations have, as a matter of policy, and not from ignorance, refrained from criticizing Israel’s political system. Perhaps some are inhibited by the fear that such criticism may diminish their sources of income. Yet they freely indulge in criticizing the defeatist policies of Israeli governments—as if the policies of a government, persisted in for decades, are utterly unrelated to the structure of the government itself!

10. Of course, these Zionists have been told, “If you want to change Israel’s political system, make aliya.” But the same remark could be made to Zionists who merely criticize Israeli policies. Besides, Israeli politicians are ever cozying up to American Zionist organizations for financial and other support. Time for such organizations to challenge these politicians: “You want our support? Change your rotten political system! Our safety as well as yours depends on it!”