Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Protecting Israel's Democracy

An interesting piece of legislation is about to be presented to the Knesset for its second and third reading (which would make it law), having passed today in the Knesset House Committee.

The "Referendum Law" states that should the Israeli government approve a withdrawal from territory under full Israeli sovereignty (i.e., the Golan Heights, Eastern Jerusalem, parts of pre-1967 Israel alongside the Gaza strip, but not Yehuda vShomron/West Bank) – then the decision will be put to a vote in the Knesset. Once passed in the Knesset, a national referendum will be held within 180 days. Only a vote of 80 (or 90) Knesset members or more can prevent a referendum from being required to implement the withdrawal.

This law's origin is based on the problem that Israeli politicians routinely run on one platform, and then do an about-face after elections, and reject their previous platform. Examples include Yitzchak Rabin and the Oslo Accords, in which the entire issue was hidden from the public's eye till it was announced. The Oslo 2 Accords only passed in the Knesset by a 1 person majority (61-59) after Rabin bribed 2 MKs to abandon their party's platform in exchange for a Ministerial position and a Mitsubishi car and driver.

Ariel Sharon, the previous "champion of Israel's security and supporter of Jewish settlement" did a radical about face in the middle of his term, leading Israel's disengagement from Gaza, despite having won the election against the publicly stated disengagement platform of the head of the Labor party, Amnon Mitzna. This also despite Sharon's promise to abide by the public referrendum of the Likud party's membership on the issue of Disengagement, in which the Disengagement idea was rejected by an overwhelming 69% to 29%.

What I found amazing was an interview with MK Daniel Ben-Simon (Labor) who announced on IDF radio this morning that this law was a threat to democracy and would diminish the sovereignty of the Knesset.

The "sovereignty of the Knesset"? By putting a vote into the hands of the people, that impedes the representatives of the people? That impacts our democracy?

This need for this law is further reinforced by yesterday's acquittal of MK Tzachi Hanegbi. Hanegbi was cleared on the charges of fraud, breach of trust, and electoral bribery in the Jerusalem Magistrates' Court. He was charged on just one count in the indicted filed against him in 2006: perjury.

Quoted on IDF radio, Hanegbi stated that the conviction of perjury was only a minor issue, tacked on to the end of the indictment. If the court doesn't rule that Hangbi's perjury carries the stain of "Kalon" (moral turpitude) , this will herald his return as a major player in Israeli politics and a leader within the Kadima party.

Since when is perjury such a petty crime, that when committed by a politician that it be ignored and minimized as a "minor issue." I assume that since politicians in Israel lie all the time, why should any politician even be expected not to lie under oath?

Tzippi Livni considers herself Mrs. Clean, and Kadima to be the "clean hands party" -- yet to allow Hanegbi to continue in the party after a conviction of perjury (with, or without the official court declaration of "kalon") demonstrates the worst of Israeli politics and utter disregard of the law.

If we want to protect Israel's democracy, we need to protect ourselves from politicians in Kadima and the Labor party that moan about Israelis wanting to decide for themselves about Israel's future and not leave it in the hands of immoral criminals housed in the Knesset.

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NormanF said...

Every country has a referendum law. Even the late Soviet Union held a referendum on an issue of national importance.

But that's considered too extreme for Israel!

Go figure.

Anonymous said...

How many westerners need to make aliyah before there is enough pressure to make the government legit?

I'm moving there as fast as I can.

Soccer Dad said...

I would add two more examples.

1) While maybe it wasn't in his platform, Netanyahu argued that it was too risky to withdraw from Chevron.

2) I'm pretty certain that Barak claimed that he'd never divide Yerushalayim and yet attempted to do just that at Camp David and later at Taba. (And he was negotiating concessions at Taba even after his coalition had fallen!)

Kovi said...

I've always found this a shocking paradox in Israeli politics: that somehow, through however the system of democracy in Israel apparently works (or doesn't), a given leader (cough sharon cough) can do pretty much whatever they want completely regardless of what the Israeli public thinks. It's like once we elect them they are mad dogs, we have no checks on them whatsoever, and we can only cross our fingers and hope they don't suddenly, randomly do a 180 and stab their constituents in the back.

NormanF said...

The paradox is Israel's vlasti, like their old Soviet counterparts can pretty much do whatever they want with impunity. There are no real checks and balances to stay their hand.

Nachum said...

Norman, the United States doesn't have referenda. And to cite the Soviet Union...well.

Personally, I've seen Israeli politicians (politicians in general, actually) do what they want so often, this law will probably be an immediate dead letter. If they have to, they'll get the 80 votes, I can practically guarantee it.

They held out for Mitsubishis? Talk about low expectations...

Kovi said...

lol you forget, we can't get japanese cars here in israel.
As for America not having a referendum, true, but then American presidents - even the worst of the most liberal of them - only try to give pieces of ISRAEL to the arabs, not 90% of the landmass of their OWN country. Only in Israel are our leaders that screwed up.

Batya said...

There's something very dangerous in the "winner takes all" philosophy/mentality here in Israel. It's like the american electoral college. The majority rules by totally overriding the minority even if it's just a 51% to 49% vote.

The winner or boss as dictator.

An Old Friend in the Knesset said...

With posts like this, it's no wonder that the Muqata is rapidly losing all the corrupt, sleazy politicians and convicted perjurers among its readership. Shame on you.

If I had the time, I would sponsor a Knesset bill to have your blog banned for incitement, and arrange to have the Attorney General investigate you for violating the Law Against Insulting Powerful Political Hacks with Connections (paragraph 288 in the Israel Penal Code). Luckily for you, I don't actually spend much time at my job in the Knesset...

Olah Chadasha said...

The biggest problem is that we don't vote for our representatives here, so we can't vote with our feet who we want in power. I believe this gives way to a lot of this kind of corruption since our voices can't be heard at the voting booths when something like this happens. If we could actually vote for HaNegbi, we wouldn't be voted back into office regardless of whether Kadima would take him back.

I think the entire system needs to be overhauled so that the parties hear our voices when they accept this kind of corruption.

Anonymous said...

"lol you forget, we can't get japanese cars here in israel."

I hate to break this to you but Honda and Toyota are japanese car, and very much available in Israel...

Anonymous said...

"I think the entire system needs to be overhauled so that the parties hear our voices when they accept this kind of corruption.

If people paid more attention to American politics, they would see how weak and helpless americans are with their politicians as well. Only once ever X years are we able to have a say in what we do.

As was proved during the civil rights era, the "checks and balances" don't really do all that much check and balancing, except for the people who "follow the rules"

It is a different attitude. Americans stand in line, Israelis don't.

Search the Muqata


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