Another Tack: Horse-sense or horse-trade?

Not every powerful leader is necessarily the panacea for which the populace yearns.

By
November 16, 2006 11:29
4 minute read.

 
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Earlier this year we indisputably elected a government of super-flunkies, to the likes of which even previous bunglers cannot compare - and we've suffered quite an assortment of both schlimazels and hardly benign schlemiels. Some of our more harmful governments bamboozled public opinion sufficiently to retain popularity, but Olmert's bunch hasn't even managed that. Belying his supercilious demeanor, Olmert scores the lowest approval ratings ever for a serving premier. The Lebanese fiasco alerted the voters to their grievous error in record time, soon after they put the Kadima coterie of snake-oil salesmen in control. This crew's knack for botching every facet of combat, while neglecting noncombatants in the rocketed hinterland, boggles the mind. Our arrogant, shady and inexperienced premier - who zigzagged on every issue from convergence/realignment to cease-fire in Lebanon and negotiations with Syria - also appointed ministers as ill-suited as himself to handle that with which he entrusted them. In a true parliamentary democracy one would expect a government that malfunctions as severely as the one lackadaisically inaugurated in Jerusalem, to be removed ASAP by the legislature which approved its creation. But irony of ironies - the least deserving of all of Israel's coalitions to date has lately grown stronger. Avigdor Lieberman's alacrity to prop it (purportedly in order to thwart Iran) constitutes an unequivocal distortion of his voters' will. Lieberman's rightist ticket attracted the very voters for whom Kadima was anathema. Rushing to Olmert's rescue skews the balance of power in direct contravention of the voters' decree. But that's nothing new. The Oslo flop was facilitated by the defection of two MKs of the now-defunct Tsomet list, as much to the Likud's right as Lieberman's Israel Beiteinu. Alex Goldfarb was bribed with a Mitsubishi and Gonen Segev with a ministerial appointment. The latter Oslo-enabler's ethical status was underscored more recently by his conviction for drug smuggling and forgery. Yet what rankles more painfully than betrayal is the fact that Lieberman and Olmert are now co-hatching an overhaul of our system of government to egregiously fortify the executive at the legislature's expense (contradicting the parliamentary system's inherent premise).Thus the revamp would mandate a majority of 66 MKs to pass a no-confidence motion, making it excessively difficult to sack a premier. True, the conventional gripe is that PMs allocate too much energy to parliamentary survival and that sending them packing is a relatively attainable proposition. Yet while the desire for a stable government is understandable, so is the logic of being able to remove an out-and-out failure. Fortifying an unworthy government shouldn't be democracy's objective. Considering that this indisputably unsuccessful government has just incongruously buttressed its defenses, its mooted system alterations will reduce our anyway hypothetical democracy to a farcical facade thereof. It's already almost that. This administration's predecessor, in which Olmert was the second-in-command linchpin, expelled 9,000 settlers after then-premier Ariel Sharon hoodwinked his voters and proceeded to implement the direct opposite of the platform which elevated him to office. That may have been the most flagrant political breach of promise in Israel's annals but not the only one. Remember Amir Peretz's vow to pursue a socioeconomic agenda? THINGS BEING as they are even prior to the proposed "reform," we needn't over-exert our imagination to envision how they'll be after Olmert is rendered immune to most any parliamentary upset. Already now the public helplessly watches the abuse of powers which it conferred upon its so-called representatives. Is it then wise to further augment the clout of wanna-be autocrats? What must never be forgotten is that democracy is the expression of the electorate's sovereignty. Governments are there to serve our best interests - not to put one over us. It's half-baked - if not actually dangerous - to install via the back door a premier/pseudo-American president, who needs nobody to appoint him to form the government, whose accountability to the Knesset is negligibly enforceable and whom it's next to impossible to unseat. This insincere quasi-imitation of the American system would moreover be imposed on a structure which lacks the American model's underlying checks and balances - to say nothing of as much as a constitution. Divesting our legislative branch of its remaining authority could augur nothing auspicious. The Supreme Court daily diminishes the Knesset. Additional attenuation from an inordinately dominant executive will hardly bolster democracy. In situations of aggravated disaffection - as Israel has been experiencing since last summer's Lebanese conflict - schemes to station a strongman at the national helm boast undeniable allure. But not every powerful leader is necessarily the panacea for which the populace yearns. Moreover, the need to shore up a fraying coalition shouldn't constitute the rationale behind far-reaching changes whose implications and ramifications haven't been adequately considered. What should be approached with utmost trepidation cannot become the object of dilettante experimentation or expedient horse-trading. We need plain horse-sense. What ails our system isn't so much its technical framework but the content we voters pour into it - all too often willy-nilly, following inane fads, swayed by polls, overlooking issues and pooh-poohing serious debate. We hanker after instant solutions, dismiss bitter truths and prefer the sweet comfort of delusion. Our dereliction of the most fundamental civic responsibilities lies at the root of our travails. Avoiding the difficult and unpleasant in favor of simplistic answers to deep-seated existential problems will invariably result in bad government. Nothing afflicts our system so dreadfully that competent leaders and sound policy guidelines cannot ameliorate, if not cure. Superficial pretend reforms won't compensate for lack of elementary capability - they'll just make it possible for incompetent leaders, sans any guidelines, to make a bad situation incomparably worse.

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