(Continued from p.10)Israel to reform its electoral laws; for by determining who is eligible to vote, and who is eligible to hold office, and how office-holders are chosen, these laws can be designed in such a way as to increase the likelihood of obtaining wise and courageous rulers. True, electoral reform will not solve all of Israel's problems; but it is the most practical and expeditious way to begin.
Professor Paul Eidelberg is Chairman of the Foundation for Constitutionual Democracy in the Middle East.
Dr. Eidelberg has two fundamental objections to what I wrote: 1) in focusing on failures of the Israeli leadership and public, I fail to go to the heart of the matter, namely the institutional causes of Israel's disastrous policies; 2) my analysis is "defeatist," offers no "solutions," and "leads to a dead end."
For Dr. Eidelberg, to explain Netanyahu's behavior as a reaction to pressure, and the absence of character that makes him give in to that pressure, is "a tired answer." If it is a tired answer, it is also unquestionably a true one. We need only ask ourselves, given what is known of Netanyahu's beliefs from his extensive speeches and writings prior to becoming Prime Minister, whether he wants to turn Judea, Samaria and Gaza over to the PLO. Since he obviously does not, the reason he acts contrary to his better judgment has to be pressure.
The question then becomes, what is the source of that pressure? Obviously, a potent source of pressure is external, notably from the Clinton administration, whose "tighten the screws," bare-knuckled methods became glaringly apparent at the Wye Plantation diktat. But the pressures are also, at least equally important, internal, notably from a strong Labor opposition, Netanyahu's own splintered coalition, and a media almost uniformly enamored of the "peace process."
While on the one hand Dr. Eidelberg is
unhappy with the emphasis on leaders (it is "superficial" to
think major political problems will be solved by a change
in prime minister or party), his own "answer" is new
leadership, a leadership he is confident will emerge from
altered institutional arrangements, namely a change in
the way in which members of the Knesset are elected.
(The Prime Minister is already directly elected,
even thoughmany in the Knesset would like to rescind
that.) To my mind, however tempting, this is a
superficial pseudo-solution. Does Israel's party-controlled system
put into the Knesset a large number of political nonentities and yes-men? Indeed it does. But will constituency elections replace them with wise and charismatic leaders dedicated to Zionism and the national interest, firm against pressure?
Ay, there's the rub. Constituency elections are liable to produce a considerable number of Knesset members whose concerns will be parochial, and whose votes on larger issues can be influenced by benefits to constituents on smaller ones. Look at the Third Way party, whose raison d'etre and mission is saving the Golan. This is the party which, from within the coalition, has been the chief source of pressure on Netanyahu to surrender Judea and Samaria, repeatedly threatening to bring down the government if he does not speedily toe the Clinton-Arafat line (as established by the worm- tongued Jewish advisers of the president). The abysmally stupid leaders of the Third Way apparently believe that by surrendering Judea and Samaria they will save the Golan! They do not see to the end of their own noses, for all they do is hasten the day when the Golan is negotiated away. Yet the leaders of the Third
What ground is there to expect constituency elections to produce a different breed of men?
Israel has had its electoral system, deplorable though it may be, from the beginning of the state, and it functioned more or less until the Oslo agreement. That agreement divided and demoralized the country and brought into the open the true fundamental problem facing Israel, the long-ripening rot within secular Zionism. If this is not addressed and thus far Israel's leaders have catered to it, not countered it it will spell the end of the Jewish state, and no alteration in institutional arrangements will be of help.
Last month, we quoted Ariel Sharon, speaking years prior to Oslo, on the defeatism rife within the Israeli public that he prophesied could lead in short order to the creation of a Palestinian state and a subsequent war on Israel. Large numbers of secular Israelis proudly describe themselves as "post-Zionist" which really means not Zionist at all, beyond all that unsophisticated, parochial attachment to a coastal plain now known as the state of Israel. They have replaced Zionism with an
(Continued on p.12)
November 1998 - 11 - Outpost