Don’t Be Deceived: To Support Elon is to Support the SYSTEM
Disengagement: The Ugly Truth About the Knesset
1. In October 2004, the Knesset passed the unilateral Disengagement bill by a vote of 67 to 45. Amazing, because this Knesset came into existence as a result of the January 2003 election, when parties opposed to unilateral Disengagement won 84 Knesset seats or 70% of the Knesset’s membership.
National Union 7
National Religious Party 6
Torah United Judaism 5
Israel B’Aliya* 2
*Joined Likud after the election.
2. Even if Shinui’s 15 seats are subtracted, there would remain 69 MKs against Disengagement. So how are we to explain that 67 MKs voted for Disengagement?
3. Clearly, hundreds of thousands of voters were cheated. Prime Minister Sharon, who campaigned against Disengagement, stole their votes, betrayed the founding principles and platform of his Likud party, and nullified the results of the January 2003 election. But how did he do this?
4. In the Knesset vote on Disengagement, 27 Likud MKs also violated their party’s founding principles and campaign platform. Would they have done so if they were individually elected by and accountable to the voters in constituency elections? Hardly.
5. Here we see that Israel’s parliamentary electoral system, where citizens vote for a party slate instead of an individual candidate, is largely responsible for the Knesset vote of October 2004. Still, how did Sharon pull this off?
6. Easy: Despite party primaries, he threatened Likud MKs that if they voted against Disengagement, many would be dropped from their party list in the next election, while other Likud MKs would have a lower party ranking and thus be deprived of a cabinet appointment. To assert his dictatorial power, Sharon summarily dismissed cabinet ministers who opposed Disengagement. This was enough to get Benjamin Netanyahu, Sylvan Shalom, Limor Livnat, and other wimps to yield to Sharon’s diktat. Not a pretty sight.
7. What we see here is that Israel has a democratically elected Knesset that enables MKs and those who become cabinet ministers, including the prime minister, to violate public opinion with impunity. Not very democratic.
8. What is the root cause of this oxymoronic system? Simple: Proportional Representation (PR).
9. As I have often pointed out, in Israel the entire nation constitutes a single electoral district, where parties compete on the basis of PR. No democratic country (excluding the Netherlands) has such a system, and there are about twenty smaller in size and population than Israel. But let me approach this problem from a more radical perspective.
10. Any person of common sense understands that national unity is essential to the survival of a nation which, like Israel, is surrounded by hostile regimes. But if this person is a political scientist, he would also know that nothing fragments Israel—the nation, the Knesset, and the cabinet—more than PR, because it allows a profusion of parties to gain seats both in the Knesset and the cabinet—which may be fine for some countries, but not for besieged Israel.
11. I will go further—and here I will ruffle some feathers. I dare say there is not a single member of the Knesset that does not know that PR, especially with a low electoral threshold, undermines national unity and therefore Israel’s survival. This being the case, a political scientist could conclude that each and every member of the Knesset—whether secular or religious—must be more concerned about his or her personal interest than the national interest, pious platitudes to the contrary notwithstanding?
12. What’s remarkable is that no less than 88% of the public has arrived at pretty much the same conclusion, as may be inferred from a professional poll commissioned in 2001 by former Knesset Speaker Avraham Burg. Frightening in a besieged country like Israel!
13. The most ardent nationalists have been tainted by PR. Even though they realize that Israel’s most constant and crucial need is national unity, they nonetheless perpetuate a system of government that is inherently divisive, a system, however, that prolongs their political careers.
14. PR is an engine of self-aggrandizement. As noted in Position Paper II, David Ben-Gurion knew this: he deplored the fact that Israel’s cabinet consists of a loose combination of parties whose business is not to pursue a national program “but merely to divide positions of influence and the national budget.”
15. What was known to Ben-Gurion is surely known, by now, to every Knesset member. They know that PR is largely responsible for the instability as well as the ineptitude and corruption of Israeli government. PR underlies the fact that, during the past 57 years, Israeli governments last, on an average, less than two years—hardly sufficient time to pursue long-term as well consistent and resolute national policies.
16. Since this state of affairs is understood by all members of the Knesset, what shall we say even of the “best and the brightest”? All their talk about democracy is purely self-serving. Indeed, it is precisely Israel’s reputation as a democracy that perpetuates their power.
17. Returning, to Disengagement, it will not end with the expulsion of Jews from Gaza and northern Samaria. Some 250,000 Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria are scheduled for expulsion to make room for a contiguous Palestinian state. But a contiguous Palestinian state will require a land corridor from Gaza to the “West Bank,” which means that Israel will be something less than a contiguous state; indeed, it will be indefensible. This was the hidden issue in the January 2003 election.
18. Without realizing what was at stake in that election, the voters were asked, in effect, “Are you for or against Israel’s existence?” By voting against Labor’s policy of Disengagement, a vast majority of the Jews voted, in effect, for Israel’s existence. This cannot be said of the Knesset, which voted for Disengagement in October 2004, fully cognizant of the negative assessment of that policy by the highest military and intelligence officials. What made this treachery possible, however, was not only the moral failings of 27 Likud MKs, but the parliamentary system of proportional representation that enabled them to trash public opinion and make a mockery of democracy.