Not only corrupt politicians, but also the decadence of Israel’s parliamentary electoral system is responsible for Sharon’s Disengagement Plan, hence for the unspeakable tragedy that has befallen thousands of Jews in Gaza and northern Samaria.
Few people realize that the flaws inherent in Israel’s parliamentary system were evident at the founding of the state, as may be learned from David Ben-Gurion’s Memoirs.
Israel’s first Prime Minister realized that making the entire country a single electoral district would impair democracy and the development of national policies. Every voter would have to choose from a profusion of parties, most of whose candidates would be utterly unknown to him. “The system would cut any connection between the voter and his representative, who would be dependent [note well] on his party leadership rather than on those who elected him and whom he would not even know.” The people “would have no influence in choosing the candidates, since the [party] lists would be drawn up at party headquarters.” (Emphasis added)
Moreover, proportional representation “would lead to fragmentation of the nation’s forces and artificial conflicts.” “Party fragmentation would result in many parliamentary factions uniting to form a dominant majority, not on the basis of a common program but merely to divide up positions of influence and the national budget.” (Emphasis added)
“District elections alone,” said Ben-Gurion, “could prevent this [undemocratic and divisive state of affairs], as the representative would know who had elected him and could maintain constant contact with them. To win a majority, the candidate would have to gain the approval of a majority of voters in his own constituency and concentrate on the problems that concerned that majority. Instead of a multiplicity of parties and election lists, a constituency system would promote national unity and an organic link between the voter and his legislative representative.” (Emphasis added)
Ben-Gurion notes that 21 party lists competed in the elections to the first Knesset and that 12 won seats in that ersatz assembly. No party came close to winning a majority. “Thus there came into being a large number of small parties whose programs held no interest for the majority of the nation, which was denied its basic right of real choice of the Government.” (Today there are 16 parties in Israel’s seldom-attended legislature.)
This multiplicity of parties obviously hinders the development of national unity and the pursuit of long-range national goals. As Ben-Gurion put it: “the interests of parties, as conceived by the leadership of their Central Committees, became paramount [vis-à-vis the national interest].”
Although the existing parliamentary system appears democratic in theory—it allows for representation of many small interest groups—excessive diversity is self-defeating. The entire nation (including small parties) suffers when a cabinet consisting of rival parties cannot pursue a consistent and resolute national strategy (or succumbs to an overbearing prime minister).
One would think that a large party like the Likud, or at least a patriotic faction in the Likud, would emphasize, on every public forum, the above words of David Ben-Gurion; all the more readily, since surveys indicate an increasing majority of the public favors constituency of regional elections.
It seems, however, that to expect parliamentary reform from within is like asking chickens to vote for Colonel Sanders. No one who has enjoyed the perks of a Knesset member for four or eight or more years is going to say the SYSTEM is undemocratic and corrupt. Change must therefore come from without. Needed is a new and authentic Jewish force untainted by collaboration with any of the self-serving and corruption-ridden parties of the Knesset.
I have in mind a union of non-parliamentary Jewish groups committed to fundamental institutional change, beginning with parliamentary electoral reform. This has been the constant aim of the Yamin Israel party. Yamin Israel is the only party that emphasizes the necessity of replacing proportional representation with constituency elections. This alone can make MKs individually accountable to the voters—the one thing that could have prevented two/thirds of the Likud’s 40 MKs from voting for Disengagement, contrary to their campaign pledge in the January 2003 election.
Accordingly, Yamin Israel, which received 2.4% in a Geocartography poll prior to that election—significantly above the present 2% electoral threshold—will campaign for democratic reform and invigoration of Israel’s decrepit Knesset, a Knesset dominated by the cabinet, above all, by the prime minister. This reform is the first step in developing institutional checks and balances and the rule of law in Israel.