Deri calls to change electoral system

Former Shas leader, who was jailed for corruption, is making clear his intent on a political comeback.

January 25, 2010 03:28
2 minute read.
Deri calls to change electoral system

aryeh deri looking jaunty 248.88. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )

Israel is suffering from a leadership vacuum and the crisis will not be solved until the political system is changed, former Shas leader Aryeh Deri said Sunday in a speech about "the challenges of leadership in the public sector and Israeli politics" at Jerusalem's Lander Institute.

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Deri has made increasingly clear in recent weeks that he intends to make a political comeback as soon as possible. He refused to discuss his political future with reporters at the event, but he hinted his comeback was imminent in a recent conversation with Kadima MK Shaul Mofaz.

While current Shas chairman Eli Yishai is noticeably absent on the itinerary for next month's Herzliya Conference, Deri will be a featured speaker at the week-long event that is addressed by the nation's top leadership. The electoral reforms Deri advocated in his speech on Sunday have all been repeatedly vetoed by Shas in Deri's absence.

Deri called for electing the prime minister in direct elections, mandating that he automatically serve four years, and requiring him to appoint professionals to each cabinet position instead of Knesset members. He also advocated raising the electoral threshold and electing at least half the Knesset in direct, regional elections.

"If Knesset members were chosen in regional elections, they would know that they have to be in constant contact with their constituents and help the average citizen," Deri said. "That way we would get better and more serious people in the Knesset."

Deri said the current system of government discourages long-term planning because prime ministers would prefer to invest in short-term plans they would get credit for finishing rather than long-term projects that might be cancelled by their successor. He said the best people don't go into politics because of the Israeli system's emphasis on parties and primaries and not on substance.

"We are in a leadership crisis and there is a leadership vacuum, not just in Israel but in the entire world," Deri said. "Our system was right when the state was founded and we were ingathering the exiles who were afraid of disenfranchisement. But now the system prevents upgrading our leadership in this country. A prime minister has no chance of succeeding with the coalition system, knowing he can fall at any minute."

Deri also decried a lack of values among Israel's leadership. He said the proper example of a Jewish leader was Moses, who he said was humble, patient, tolerant, and knew how to show gratitude.

Asked by reporters after his speech when he will return to the nation's leadership, Deri said, "When the time comes to decide, I will."

A bill has been proposed in the Knesset that would prevent people like Deri who served jail sentences for corruption from getting elected to the parliament.

Shas officials responded to Deri's speech by accusing him of populism.

They said he would speak differently if he were bound by the realities of representing a haredi party and its rabbis.

"The perspective from inside the political system is different," a Shas official said. "If he was inside, he would find it correct to stick to Shas's principles."

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