Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Diogenes in Israel

Diogenes in Israel

by Prof. Paul Eidelberg

Diogenes, the Greek philosopher, was exiled from his native city of Sinope and moved to Athens, where he is said to have walked through the streets carrying a lantern in the daytime, claiming to be looking for an honest man, but unable to find one. I wonder if he would find any in Israel’s Knesset?

According to The 2008 Israeli Democracy Index, 95 percent of the public in Israel deem members of the Knesset dishonest. If this assessment of the Knesset is correct, one may wonder why the remaining 5 percent stay in that den of iniquity.

If 95 percent of the Knesset’s 120 members are not honest, that leaves only six honest MKs! Let’s help Diogenes find an honest MK.

The Olmert coalition government is rightly deemed the most corrupt government in Israel’s history. That puts to shame 29 MKs from Kadima; 19 from Labor-Meimad; 12 from Shas; 7 from (the original) Gil Pensioners — a total of 67 MKs to which we may add another 5 from Meretz-Yachad, which said it will serve as a “safety net” for the Kadima government. We thus have 72 unsavory Knesset members. Pray, continue, says Diogenes.

Alas, Diogenes, we shall have to add 12 MKs from the Likud, 11 MKs from Israel Beiteinu, 9 MKs from the National Union-National Religious coalition, and 6 MKs from United Torah Judaism — 38 MKs whose parties propped up the Sharon government and are therefore complicit in its criminal expulsion of Jews from Gaza and northern Samaria. Diogenes, we have shed some of your light on 110 MKs.

Let’s not waste time on the 10 Arab MKs that accept pay and perks from the government yet support Israel’s enemies. Sorry to say, Diogenes, but we shall have to look for an honest man outside the Knesset.

Before doing so, however, let’s anticipate the objection that some cabinet ministers resigned from the Sharon government in protest against disengagement, and that 45 voted against the disengagement/expulsion law. But the die had been cast, and they helped cast it by perpetuating the myth that Israel is democracy even though MKs are not individually accountable to the voters in constituency elections and can therefore ignore their convictions with impunity. This is precisely what enabled 23 of 38 Likud MKs, contrary to their campaign pledges, to vote for disengagement and thus rob some 575,000 citizens of their votes! (One may add four Likud MKs that abstained on the Knesset vote, and who therefore betrayed another 100,000 voters.)

This brings me to a report about the Likud that appeared in the September 3, 2008 issue of The Jerusalem Post. Here is how the report begins:

Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu is considering several different options to allow several well-known public figures to make the party’s list for the next Knesset, sources close to Netanyahu confirmed … Netanyahu is considering alternating between current Likud MKs and new people in the party’s first 23 slots, or switching off between them every five places on the list. According to one idea, Netanyahu will recommend the candidates and the Likud membership will rank them.

The Post reports that Netanyahu is interested in reserving slots for at least seven new people. Although he denied the report, this does not negate the report’s further remark that “Likud MKs who met with Netanyahu in recent days, expressed outrage at the large number of reserve slots he was asking for, which would prevent them from becoming ministers in the next government.”

Here is important evidence of why MKs—the “best and the brightest”—have not reformed Israel’s system of voting for national party lists. They know that, under this system, virtually any MK can become a cabinet minister, the road to power and political longevity.

Without wishing to denigrate anyone, let me reveal how Israel’s political system diminishes the integrity of best that enter this system.

One of the most respected Likud MKs, Reuven Rivlin, denounced the report about Netanyahu’s just mentioned machinations. “The merit of the Likud,” he said, “is that we believe in democracy. I know that it would help the Likud leader to get elected if he brought in new people who could add synergy, but we can’t change the system,”

This is the same Rivlin who said, in an interview published in Ha'aretz Magazine on June 5, 2003: “instead of the rule of law, we have in Israel a gang of the rule of law." In that interview, the “gang” Rivlin alluded to consisted of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s political oligarchy in the cabinet, on the one had, and President Aharon Barak’s judicial oligarchy in the Supreme Court on the other.

The two oligarchies collaborated when the Sharon government implemented Labor’s policy of unilateral disengagement from Gaza in August 2005, a crime sanctified by Supreme Court president Aharon Barak.

Mr. Rivlin knows that the public had rejected that policy by an overwhelming majority of 70 percent in the January 2003 election. He knows that the parties that campaigned against unilateral disengagement won 84 seats in that election. Yet, in The Jerusalem Post of September 3, 2008, Rivlin disingenuously refers to Israel as a democracy—which it may be from a sociological perspective, but not at all from a political perspective!

The truth is that Ariel Sharon nullified the January 2003 election. The truth is he became Labor’s surrogate prime minister. And when 23 Likud MKs, who had campaigned against disengagement, voted for that policy in October 2004, they, like Sharon, demonstrated that Israel is a democracy in name only—a name that endows Israel’s government with legitimacy and its ruling elites with respectability.

But who dares tell the people the truth? Who dares tell them that despite periodic, multiparty elections, they have been disenfranchised, thanks to a political system that even David Ben-Gurion admitted in his Memoirs, four decades ago, is not a representative democracy. So we have to look outside the Knesset Diogenes for an honest man.

The same Post article I have been citing tells us that “another reason Netanyahu was interested in reserving slots [for certain well-known persons] was that he wanted to prevent far-right activist Moshe Feiglin and his allies in the party from entering the Knesset.”

The Post reports, “Feiglin responded that he and his Manhigut Yehudit movement represented traditional Likud values while most of the names mentioned of potential newcomers came from the Left.” “It is shocking,” said Feiglin, “that after Netanyahu allowed the entire membership to select the Likud’s list, he is now trying to go the opposite way and parachute people in.” Feiglin went on to say, “Bringing in left-wingers won’t help the Likud. Democracy doesn’t have to be canceled to bring in new people.”

So Feiglin, like many other “politically correct” people outside the Knesset persists in purveying the myth of Israeli democracy. Even would-be reformers, perhaps out of timidity, perhaps out of self-interest, refrain from telling the truth about the legal system that has disempowered the people of Israel, or how the “gang” uses the legal system to deprive Jews of their birthright.

Just as Diogenes was looking in vain for an honest man in Athens, I have been looking in vain for a statesman or would-be statesman in Israel who will tell the people the plain truth. While the government of Ehud Olmert, without public debate, is releasing Arab terrorists, including murderers; while this government, without public debate, is anxious to surrender eastern Jerusalem and the Temple Mount to Israel’s implacable enemies; while this government arrests and brutalizes citizens lawfully protesting against such treachery; while this government allows terrorists to bomb Sderot with impunity and degrade the Jewish people—nevertheless there is not a single public figure that has the guts to stand up and emphasize on public forums that Israel is not a democracy, indeed, that Israel is in dire need of REGIME CHANGE.

Is it any wonder that the public regards 95 percent of the Knesset as dishonest? Is it any wonder that politics does not attract men who value truth above political ambition?

Diogenes was looking for an honest man and found none. Well, let’s take his lamp and look for an honest woman. Who knows, we may find a Sarah Palin?

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