Foundation Blog
Cabinet/Executive Constitution & Rights Democratic Methods Ethics Judaism Knesset/Legislative Representation Supreme Court/Judicial

A Political Dictionary for Israelis and Immigrants: Part I

A. Democracy: Two Types

  1. Normative” or classical democracy: based on the idea of man’s creation in the holy image of God. This provides democracy’s basic principles, freedom and equality, with rational and moral constraints. (Freedom is not “living as you like,” and equality is not a leveling but and elevating principle. The holy nation is a “kingdom of noblemen.”)
  2. Normless” or contemporary democracy. No ethical standards. Freedom is living as you please, and equality leads to vulgarity via the equivalence of all lifestyles. (Moral equivalence: “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.” Arafat is awarded a Nobel Peace Prize.)

B. Jewish values (derived from the Torah)

  1. Emphasis on justice, kindness, modesty, creativity, reason, and due process of law. Deference to wisdom. Relating the present to the past without sacrificing creativity.
  2. Love of God, of the Jewish people, of the Land of Israel.

C. Constitution

  1. Narrow meaning: a framework of basic institutions and laws governing society. Usually involves a division and powers between legislative, executive, and judicial branches. Places limits on the powers of rulers and secures basic human rights.
  2. Broad meaning: teaches citizens their rights and duties. Fosters civility and rationality in public life. Enables people to reconcile permanence and change. (In Judaism this is accomplished by the Written and Oral Law. The Written Law is fixed, permanent. The Oral Law applies the Written Law to changing social, economic, and technological conditions.)
  3. Israel has no constitution. It has a variety of “Basic Laws,” some of which have been enacted even without majority of the Knesset voting.

D. Human Dignity

  1. Related to the difference between the human and sub-human. Man is the only creature that blushes, meaning he has a sense of shame. He can distinguish between what is noble and base. He possesses theoretical as well as practical reason. He has free will. He can be creative. He can be virtuous or vicious. He can be concerned about the common good. He can be dedicated to more than mere comfort and self-preservation.
  2. Human dignity ultimately derived from man’s creation in the holy image of God.

E. Human Rights

  1. There are no rights without corresponding duties. (Animals have no rights and no duties; but in Jewish law, man has a duty to feed his animals before he feeds himself.) All rights and duties are derived either from the nature of man or from laws enacted by lawfully elected government—which laws must be comprehensible to the citizen and enacted for the common good.
  2. Sometimes, the term “rights” is used to dignify what are nothing more than the arbitrary demands of this or that individual or group. “Rights” must be based on what is indeed right and conducive to human perfection.

F. The Knesset

  1. Israel’s parliament consists of 120 members holding office for four years, unless dissolved. Basic Law: The Knesset prohibits any party that negates the Jewish character of the state. (This law has not been enforced by the Supreme Court against Arab parties.)
  2. How chosen: the entire country constitutes a single district and political parties compete for Knesset seats on the basis of proportional representation. A party must win 2% of the votes cast in a national election to obtain seats in the Knesset. Israel does not have regional or constituency elections. Citizens are compelled to vote for a party list, not for an individual candidate, contrary to the practice of 85 countries classified as democracies, 48 of which are smaller in population than Israel and 26 are smaller in size.
  3. The party lists are fixed, which means the voter has no say over the order or ranking of a party’s candidates. He enters a small cubical where he sees a variety of slips of paper, each bearing a different symbol for each party.
  4. In theory, the Knesset can topple the government by what is now called a “constructive vote of no confidence.” An alternative prime minister must be designated and he must win 61 at least Knesset votes. (No prime minister has ever been toppled by a Knesset vote of no confidence.)

G. The “Government”

  1. The Government is the cabinet. The cabinet consists of 20 to 30 ministers who, with rare exceptions, are members of the Knesset. The cabinet is headed by the Prime Minister (PM) who appoints the ministers of his cabinet. However, since no party has ever won a majority of seats in the Knesset, the PM must form a coalition of two or more parties—five to seven is the rule—to gain the approval of a Knesset majority. The presence of several rival parties in the cabinet renders it virtually impossible to pursue coherent and resolute national policies.
  2. The average duration of an Israeli government is a bit less than two years, making it virtually impossible to pursue a long-range national strategy.

H. The Supreme Court

  1. Members of the Supreme Court are appointed by a nine-member judicial selection committee consisting of three sitting members of the court (including its president), two representatives of the Israel Bar Association, and four members of the two leading parties, including the justice minister and a member of the Knesset Law Committee.
  2. The Court has assumed the power of “judicial review,” which means it can nullify legislation and substitute its own judgment for that of the government on various security measures.

I. Concepts

  1. The terms “Right” and “Left” in modern politics have replaced the traditional distinction between “good” and “bad.”
  2. “Zionism” and Its Aims
    1. Political Zionism: to establish a homeland for the Jewish people, overcome the scourge of anti-Semitism, restore Jewish national dignity.
    2. Cultural Zionism: to preserve Jewish cultural identity while maintaining separation of religion and state or public law.
    3. Religious Zionism: to merge public law and the Torah.
    4. Post-Zionism: to erase Jewish national identity by (1) substituting “multiculturalism” for the Jewish content of the public school curriculum; (2) transform Israel into “a state of its citizens”; and (3) yield Judea, Samaria, and Gaza—including eastern Jerusalem and the Temple Mount—to the Arabs for the sake of peace.

(To be continued)

Related Articles



Assimilation: Its Basic Causes


The Norwegian Scam