January 23: Return the Mandates

The biggest losers are the voters, whose voices are ignored, and the Labor MKs who remain true to the platform on which they ran.

Return the mandates
Sir, – Regarding “Knesset approves Barak allies as ministers amid plenum antics” (January 20), Ehud Barak and his allies in the new “Independence” faction hold their Knesset seats by virtue of their inclusion on the Labor Party’s list during the last election.
They were not elected as individual representatives of discreet districts or groups. Rather, a segment of the Israeli electorate voted for Labor based on that party’s platform, and these individuals were installed in the Knesset to represent that party. Now they have disavowed Labor, preferring to cast their lot with a prime minister from a competing party, and many Labor voters have been effectively disenfranchised.
Under the Knesset Rules of Procedure, Barak needed to convince at least one third of Labor’s MKs to join him in order to receive “faction” status and monthly support of NIS 390,000. Clearly, this procedure thwarts the will of the electorate. It offers MKs an opportunity to break away from parties without losing their seats or their funding. Once selected from a party list, members of rebel factions are guaranteed their Knesset seats even if they act in direct opposition to the wishes of those who put them in office.
The biggest losers are the voters, whose voices are ignored, and the Labor MKs who remain true to the platform on which they ran.
The fundamental question: Why should Independence members retain their Knesset seats while voters do not get a voice regarding the faction’s substantive positions? They should resign from the Knesset until the next election – at which time they will have an opportunity to seek voter support.
Until then, Labor should be allowed to replace these five mavericks with people who remain loyal to the party and, by extension, to those who voted for Labor.
MKs who are no longer willing to stand with the party on whose behalf they were elected should step aside so that the democratically expressed wishes of the people can be protected.
Zichron Ya’acov
Sir, – It seems that both Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Barak fancy themselves as the new Churchill. Unfortunately, in their arrogance, pomposity and stupidity, the politician they most resemble is the late, unlamented Benito Mussolini, who led his unfortunate country from one disaster to another.
Now and then
Sir, – The observance of the birthday of the Knesset (“Tu Bishvat – the Knesset’s 62nd anniversary,” Comment & Features, January 20) evoked memories of former Jewish parliaments, their similarities and differences.
The number 120 may have been influenced by the 120 Anshei Knesset Hagedolah of 25 centuries ago. The number 70, harking back to Torah terminology of 70 elders, was adopted for the successor to that Knesset, the Sanhedrin of 20 centuries ago.
In terms of the modern ideal of three separate powers of government – executive, judicial and legislative – we have some interesting parallels and distinctions. While in the United States the three are very much separated, in modern Israel, with its parliamentary system, we have the Knesset serving as the legislative body, but also controlling the executive powers of the prime minister through the process of coalition building, while our High Court of Justice is similar to the US Supreme Court.
The ancient Sanhedrin, we can say, combined all three functions: legislation (through Takana), judicial (through serving as the final legal authority) and executive (by choosing the king and limiting his powers).
Of course, one great difference between the current-day Knesset and the Sanhedrin is the fact that members of the latter were not elected by the people, but by each other in a system of serial appointments based on seniority.
Missing period
Sir, – In “De Gaulle, Ben-Gurion and the ‘missing dimension’ in Britain’s Middle East policy” (Comment & Features, January 19), Ben-Gurion University of the Negev historian Meir Zamir rightly points out that ignoring the role of intelligence in international relations leads to the distortion of historiography.
Notwithstanding his invocation of Andrews and Dilks’s dictum, however, he proceeds to distort our judgment on the basis of documents discovered in Beirut and intended to “substantiate De Gaulle’s anti-British allegations.”
Zamir conveniently restricts his study to 1942 and onwards, omitting the critical period of 1940-41, when Moshe Dayan lost his eye in the French Levant, and while IZL leader David Raziel sacrificed his life in Iraq during the anti-British uprising due to bullets fired from German aircraft operating out of the Vichy airbase at Aleppo.
Recall that the Yishuv was preparing defenses astride the Carmel, anguished by news of the British retreat before the Afrika Korps, which was forcing them back into Egypt, the target being the Suez Canal.
This is the background for understanding British policy toward De Gaulle, who, safely ensconced in a London luxury hotel at British taxpayers’ expense, had signed undertakings to Winston Churchill stipulating that the Free French forces being recruited weren’t to be introduced into Vichy territories like Syria and Lebanon to ignite internecine strife between small Gaullist units and local contingents of the vast French colonial army, controlled by Vichy. Yet on June 1, 1941, De Gaulle betrayed Churchill’s trust by nixing his solemn 1940 undertaking and committing his units into the ongoing British operations in Syria and Lebanon.

Hear the squealing

Sir, – Letter writer Julian Israel (“More on NGO funding,” January 19) says “there would be an awful amount of squealing if, say, Israel created and funded an NGO charged with attacking, say, Norway internally and making efforts internationally to have it boycotted.”
Perhaps he has not noticed that this has already happened. Accusations that Western governments are manipulated by shadowy and powerful pro-Zionist groups are not uncommon – obviously a latter- day reincarnation of the program outlined in that notorious forgery, The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion.
Salford, England
Nature will prevail
Sir, – In regard to Jonathan Spyer’s January 18 analysis “Lebanon enters a dark tunnel, the end of which cannot be seen,” it is perfectly clear that the Lebanon crisis will be resolved as – and only as – Hizbullah decides, whether under foreign instructions or not.
What does not seem to be known is whether this will be just the beginning of the story.
Syria considers Lebanon its fiefdom, but Hizbullah is a puppet of Iran. One day Syria will have to either co-opt Hizbullah or crush it, for Damascus will not share Lebanon with Iran. The irony is that the US is trying so hard to separate Syria from Iran when it need only wait for natural forces to do the work.
Tel Aviv
Wonderful land
Sir, – As a small boy living in London in the early 1940s, I was given a card by Bnei Akiva showing a tree with branches and spaces for leaves. For every leaf, I received a donation, and having completed the tree I received a certificate stating my name and that I had planted a tree in Palestine.
This Tu Bishvat, I looked back with such pride that I and all my family now live in Israel, and that as a child I helped just that little bit to bring to fruition this wonderful land we now live in.