In word and in deed, MK Aryeh Eldad [National Union/NRP] has been perhaps the most outspoken and courageous opponent of Israel’s withdrawal from Judea, Samaria, and Gaza. Many people look to him as a possible leader of the “nationalist camp.”
I place the words “nationalist camp” between inverted commas because there is no such creature. It’s merely an aggregation of individuals and groups which, year after year, have monotonously opposed the policy of “territory for peace.” Alas, these right-minded people not only lack a coherent, comprehensive, and realistic program to save Israel from the deadly consequence of the “peace process.” They also seem to be unaware that a nationalist camp cannot be truly nationalist unless the nation—the Jewish People—is properly represented in the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial institutions of government. The State of Israel has never had such institutions. Here I am merely paraphrasing what David Ben-Gurion wrote in his Memoirs.
Ben-Gurion saw that Israel’s parliamentary system of proportional representation multiplies the number of political parties to such an extent that no party has ever won a majority of seats in the Knesset. Every government of Israel has consisted of a welter of rival parties each pursuing its own agenda, rendering it impossible to pursue a coherent and resolute as well as long-term national strategy. (The average duration of government in Israel is less than two years!)
Now, Dr. Eldad knows there is a chronic dearth of leadership in this country. Hence I pose the following questions to him:
- 1. How can we have leadership when Israel’s cabinet consists of several rival parties?
- 2. Is responsible democratic leadership possible when members of the Knesset are not individually elected by and accountable to the voters in constituency elections?
- 3. Are you aware that of the 89 countries classified by Freedom House as a “democracy,” Israel is virtually the only one in which citizens are compelled to vote for fixed party slates—and that of these 89 countries, 26 are smaller in size and population than Israel?
- 4. Are you aware that fixed party slates enable MKs, hence the government, to ignore public opinion with impunity between elections?
- 5. Are you aware that fixed party slates readily leads to prime ministerial dictatorship as was evident in the Sharon government and now in the Olmert government?
- 6. Are you aware that a prime minister of Israel has more power in domestic affairs than a President of the United States, and that he can conclude treaties and alter the exchange rate without approval of the Knesset?
- 7. Are you aware of the fact that no Labor- or Likud-led government has ever been toppled by a Knesset vote of no confidence—a fact thus far applicable to Kadima despite criminal investigations of Olmert and his public approval rating of less than 5%?
- 8. Are you aware that multiparty cabinet government breeds political instability and corruption?
- 9. Are you aware that the perks and political longevity attached to becoming a cabinet minister induces members of the Knesset to oppose any reform that would short-circuit their personal, ministerial ambitions?
- 10. Are you aware that regardless of which party or party coalition has been in power during the past thirty years, the government has pursued the policy of “territory for peace”—which suggests that this policy has become virtually institutionalized?
- 11. Are you aware that it is not only flawed politicians but flawed institutions that have contributed to Israel’s malaise-its pursuit of “peace” with Jew-killers?
- 12. Are you aware that objective polls before and after the Oslo Agreement indicated that a majority of the public opposed that sickly policy-a majority that rose to 90% when the public was informed that “peace” would entail the loss of Israel’s strategic assets?
I have many more questions like the preceding, which would prompt any intelligent, well-informed, and candid person to admit that Israel is in dire need of a complete overhaul of its system of governance.
Of course, and as I have said on numerous occasions, there are no institutional substitutes for wisdom and virtue. The American founding fathers understood this. But as James Madison said, “Enlightened statesmen will not always be at the helm,” and that “neither moral nor religious motives can be relied on as an adequate control” against vicious factions. This is why the founders established a system of institutional checks and balances where “ambition would counteract ambition,” where the personal interest of the man would be connected with his constitutional duties.
Finally, it may surprise Dr. Eldad to learn that the American Constitution is rooted in Jewish principles, indeed, that its prescribed system if government is far more Jewish than that which governs Israel. Let us hope that Dr. Eldad and his supporters will ponder this fact, as well as the questions posed above, before offering a remedy to Israel’s malaise: its dearth of genuine leadership.