Open letter to Prime Minister Netanyahu and General Gantz:
The last general election was inconclusive because our citizens; votes were almost equally divided between your two political parties. Even when adding the votes cast for Zionist parties that declare support for your respective policies – the blocks – neither of you can achieve the necessary majority of 61 from 120 Knesset members.
General Gantz, you could form a government if you were to accept the support of the Arab Joint List. Not only would they exact a very heavy price, conditions to which even you would find it impossible to accede, but the largest part of the electorate would condemn you for it and – were it not for COVID-19 –demonstrate in large numbers.
Such a government would not last beyond six months. I don't need to lecture you on the aims and objects of the Joint List, suffice it to say that they are not working towards maintaining Israel as a Jewish and democratic state with a secure border at a sovereign Jordan Valley and with sovereignty even over parts of Judea and Samaria.
I want to deal with the situation that is imminent. Following that, I will outline a far more effective and democratic form of government than Israel's historic system, one that would obviate the need for series of repeated elections.
All the extensive experience of strategy and tactics of our very capable current and former Chiefs of Staff and successive governments to defeat enemy attacks, this system is hopelessly ineffective to fight the silent novel coronavirus with its element of surprise. That needs all the scientific and medical resources together with full cooperation of the political echelon.
To that end, the informed public demands that you both, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and leader of the Blue and White Party Benny Gantz heed President Reuven Rivlin’s request to put aside your political differences and immediately form a unity government.
Dear General Gantz,
I know that you deeply distrust the sincerity of Prime Minister Netanyahu's invitation. Nevertheless, it is in the interests of the health of the nation to at least agree to a temporary arrangement for a unity government, to be terminated when the medical emergency has ended and the economic situation has been improved to an acceptable level.
And because the task of a temporary unity government is principally to deal with the budget and with the ongoing health issue, it is unwise to introduce contentious issues like the post of Speaker of the Knesset for debate.
At this trying time, the legislature should avoid seriously controversial items and concentrate on the most essential matter of substance: the health of the nation.
Dear Prime Minister Netanyahu,
The establishment of a unity government demands sacrifices from both parties and that includes fair distribution of the major ministerial portfolios.
Because of underlying differences between you and General Gantz, it is advisable that the Ministry of Justice portfolio be entrusted to a person who has demonstrated the ability to be evenhanded.
Dear Prime Minister Netanyahu and General Gantz,
Just as you expect the nation to abide by your instructions to eradicate the health danger, so do we – the people – expect you to stop playing the blame game and get on with forming the temporary unity government.
After all, you are the servants of the people.
And now I want to suggest to you the long-term solution to eliminate the usually short lifespan of Israel,s government and along with it the all too frequent elections. Not only are they a drain on the economy for reasons of which you are well aware, but they also prevent each elected government from completing its economic and infrastructure projects. In other words ministerial musical chairs prevent the completion of the best-laid plans.
It is time to change the electoral system. What we have at present is democratic in name only. It is a false democracy. There is the important question of accountability. Knesset members are delegates of their party –without responsibility to the electorate – rather than being direct representatives and servants of the people.
Very briefly described, a better, fairer and really democratic system would be to divide the country into, let's say 100 or 120 constituencies, delineated areas with as much as possible similar population numbers, for which each properly registered party may select a candidate who will canvass there for his or her votes. The one with most votes – known as being the first-past-the-post (FPTP voting principle) – will become that area's Knesset member, and from then on represents all the voters, regardless of their affiliation. That will encourage the member to work on behalf of it’s area, so that he or she will be chosen again next time. The member would focus in Knesset on matters important for the character of his constituency area.
He or she would also have to be available for one-on-one meetings at regular intervals with constituents who have serious concerns, to help with advice and if seemingly right, bring the matter to the attention of the relevant minister and report back.
That way the legislators are representatives of the people rather than delegates of their party. The applicable motto is “no taxation without representation.”
Israel's present situation vis-a-vis its neighbors is too dangerous to run effectively on an unelected government, because that is exactly what our present system produces.
We vote for a party, but we have no say as to who they have sent to the Knesset. Is that democracy? The dictionary definition of democracy is: A government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation... “ According to this meaning, we have a dictatorship of political parties masquerading as democracy. It's time for change.
I put it to you Prime Minister Netanyahu and General Gantz, that as soon as you have successfully dealt with our health crisis that you put the subject of electoral reform on the agenda. I know that this requires courage, because it would mean that Knesset members would have to become accountable to the voters and no longer be free to do as they please. So just as turkeys would not
vote for Thanksgiving, why would the MKs agree to greater responsibility?
Therefore, a national referendum is necessary. I am surprised that the Israeli electorate peacefully accepts their role as Knesset fodder and supports a legislature that has no scruples in voting themselves salary increases between elections, while the voters are effectively powerless. In the meantime, large numbers of Holocaust survivors have to decide whether to spend their meager
funds on food, medicine or heating.
Gentlemen, stop talking democracy: Legislate it.
The writer is a 96-year-old survivor of the Nazi era and WWII veteran who hosts the weekly English podcast Walter's World on Israel National Radio (Arutz 7) and The Walter Bingham File on Israel Newstalk Radio.