(photo credit: Courtesy)
As we look at the reports on the current situation in our hospitals – patients
placed in the corridors, not enough beds in intensive care, too few doctors and
nurses to meet the needs of the population – we have every reason to question
the worsening health system in this country.
RELATED:Whither Israel’s al-Jazeera
Finally, some long-term thinking
Health care, however, is not
the only area that requires urgent attention. The virtual annual strike
when the school year is about to begin is a symptom of the malaise in the
education system. Overcrowded classes, inadequate teaching hours, poorly paid
teachers all contribute to deterioration in the education of our
children. It matters not who happens to be the education minister, the
fact remains that with our electoral system, a minister does not have either the
time or the opportunity to bring about meaningful change.
He has not the
time because the chances are the government in which he serves will not last the
four-year period, leaving little opportunity to develop ideas before a new
government is elected and a new minister appointed. It is not that the minister
is devoid of ideas to improve our children’s education, it is simply that the
government will fall before necessary change can materialize. This applies
equally to all ministers (including those serving in the Health
IF WE take this concept to the next stage, we see that at the
root of the problem is the electoral system – a prime factor that makes it
difficult for a government to govern. Surely a system that enables a small
country to have 34 parties contesting the election is bizarre, to say the least.
There can be no doubt that the 2 percent qualifying threshold makes the election
result more favorable to the minor parties. The result is a coalition government
where the party which receives fewer votes decides on the policy irrespective of
what the party that receives the most votes believes the policy should
In other words the tail is wagging the dog. Time and again we see
that the minority partner is calling the shots. Why is this? The answer is
simple: The coalition’s existence is threatened should the junior partner
threaten to leave if its views are not taken on board – a blackmail situation.
We, the electorate, end up with a government unable to do what is best for the
country but has to comply with the wishes of those whose views are in the
On the question of peace negotiations, we constantly seem to be
reacting to plans proposed by others rather than putting forward our own ideas.
It would seem that this is impossible while we have a coalition comprising those
with diametrically opposing views. Again rather than doing what is best for the
country, the “need to please everyone coalition” results in creating a void for
others to fill.
What of the population? Does it have a member of Knesset
to whom it can turn if dissatisfied? The answer is no. We go to the polls with
one option only and that is voting for a party list, not an individual. This
results in MKs who feel absolutely no responsibility toward those who elect
them. We are told this is a democratic system because ever sector of the
population is represented. However this is not what actually
Instead we view a Knesset that is frequently devoid of members,
as it appears that many choose not to participate or vote even on important
issues. This is a proportional representation system gone mad.
THE “first past the post” system in the UK, where each MP is voted for
individually – representing the constituency for which he stands –means that the
MP is beholden to those who voted him into Parliament. Many hold weekly
“surgeries,” where a constituent can come and meet his MP to discuss any issue
that is of concern to him. The fact is that the MP is obliged to hear what his
constituent is saying and – of greater importance – to endeavor to comply with
his requests. He recognizes that the vote and support of his constituent is of
the utmost importance.
How do female candidates fair in a national
election? The answer is quite poorly because they are beholden to the leaders of
the respective parties who decide where, on the party election list, they are
placed. While personally being against the “positive discrimination” policies
utilized by some countries (we women should be chosen because we are the best
candidate and not for any other reason), there can be no doubt that women stand
a better chance of election if voted for personally rather than being placed
somewhere on the party list. Again the constituent method of election would be
advantageous to women.
The most recent example of the need for drastic
change in our electoral system is the ability for five Labor Party members (led
by Ehud Barak) to leave the party under whose umbrella they were elected, and
create a new party (Atzmaut) where they are rewarded with ministerial positions
to ensure that they will remain in the coalition. For those who voted for the
Labor list to find that five of its members (including the chairman) can
transfer their political allegiance yet retain power, there must be a tremendous
sense of frustration. Surely on leaving the party that gained them their seats,
the only democratic procedure would be to replace them with Labor candidates
next on the list.
While it might be too drastic to change the system
completely, we could, however, have a combination of proportional representation
(with a higher threshold) and a constituency system. What is quite clear is that
if we wish to elect a government which can govern, the method of election must
be changed and the sooner the better! The writer is co-chairwoman of Europeans
for Israel and chairwoman of the Public Relations Department of World WIZO.