Barbecue at Kishon Park in Haifa 370 .
(photo credit: Herzl Shapiro/Kishon River Authority)
Just a few months into the government’s term and several of the bolder electoral
promises have already taken center stage.
The recommendations of the
Peri Committee on haredi (ultra-Orthodox) enlistment are poised to evolve
swiftly into legislation.
Meanwhile, the economic challenge of
deconstructing monopolies through dictates such as the “Open Skies” policy,
coupled with reducing the national deficit via dramatic budgetary cuts have also
been at the forefront of government activity. The one central campaign issue
which has remained virtually untouched so far is electoral reform.
on the subject prior to the elections focused on the size of government, the
electoral threshold, and the ability of the prime minister to govern free from
the perpetual shadow of a no-confidence vote. These are all important and
necessary changes. Yet, there are three additional reforms which must be
The first is regional representation in the Knesset. Western
immigrants have long joked about the absence of a Hebrew word for
The current system is a case in point, depriving the
average Israeli citizen of a designated elected official responsible for their
Because Knesset Members are not beholden to the electorate,
they are rarely compelled to live up to their preelection promises.
lack of accountability is further fuelled by the worrying trend of Knesset
candidates being handpicked by a single individual. As a result, they inevitably
become representatives of a party autocrat (whether it be Yair Lapid, Tzipi
Livni, Avigdor Liberman or Rabbi Ovadia Yosef) rather than the
Second is the need to set a standard of experience for all
ministerial positions. In Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers – The Story of
Success, he describes the unwritten rule by which an individual must reach the
benchmark of 10,000 hours’ experience in a chosen field before exhibiting true
potential and a real level of expertise. Gladwell cites the coming of age of The
Beatles as a prime example. For many years, The Beatles struggled as a
little known British band, until they spent nearly a year playing for hours each
day in a club in Hamburg.
Only then did they truly excel and become the
greatest band of all time.
In Israel’s public sector there have been
numerous cases over the years when the appointment of a civil servant has been
blocked under the pretense of lack of experience or professional
Yet when it comes to appointing the ministerial “captain
of the ship” we apparently have no standards or requirements.
Fortune 500 companies would consider putting a total amateur with zero
managerial or business experience at the helm? Who among us would allow a
supposed surgeon to cut us open without having endured the requisite Gladwellian
hours of medical school, residency, and years of training? Yet at this critical
juncture in the history of Israel, senior ministers completely devoid of
experience and bereft of expertise oversee many of our key ministries and sit on
the most vital committees, including the Security Cabinet.
appointments must no longer be governed purely by political necessity. Instead,
a basic standard of relevant private or public sector experience must become
Third, we should introduce absentee voting for Israeli
citizens abroad. In today’s global village, numerous democracies, including the
United States, England and France permit absentee and overseas voting for their
citizens. For the thousands of Israelis disenfranchised purely because they
happen to be abroad on election day through travel or work, this would be a
welcome development. Of the estimated million Israelis who reside abroad, many
maintain close connections with the state.
Basic guidelines for potential
overseas voters, such as regular visits to Israel, a cap on time living abroad
and IDF service would surely help minimize any misgivings over such a reform.
Absentee voting also makes sense on a much more strategic level. Our government
spends hundreds of millions of dollars each year on educating Jewish Diaspora
youth on the importance of Israel, on encouraging Jewish tourism to Israel, and
on convincing Israeli professors, doctors and businessmen to come back and live
Giving Israeli expats the right to vote abroad would draw them
closer, further enhancing these critical efforts. Moreover, absentee voting
could also help diffuse the scare tactic of demographic destruction, so often
used to shock our leaders into making territorial concessions to the
Palestinians. By allowing all citizens of Israel their democratic right to vote
we would potentially trigger a surge of hundreds of thousands of Jewish votes,
thereby placing the demographic genie back in its bottle.
and voting abroad is critical for Israel’s status both as a first world
democracy and as the state of the Jewish people.
With haggling over the
budget likely to subside over the coming months and haredi enlistment set to
become reality, expect coalition attentions to soon turn to overdue electoral
reform. However, this must not be a cosmetic modification. A real transformation
can only take place when regional representation, ministerial standards and
absentee voting are at the heart of change.
The writer served as bureau
chief to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and is president of 3H Global.