March 1: Striking nurses

Perhaps the time has come, for those at the top of the pyramid, to start taking responsibility for their actions.

Hospital Bed 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Hospital Bed 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Striking nurses
Sir, – The public’s health and welfare is always placed second by the Treasury. Nurses are expected to disregard regulations and deal with patients well over the numbers permitted in hospital licenses. What the Treasury does not realize is that serious responsibilities have been placed on the shoulders of nurses who, because of overwork, can make serious mistakes (“Nurses return to work after one-day strike, but issues remain unsolved,” February 28).
Perhaps the time has come, after our experience with the Carmel fire tragedy, for those at the top of the pyramid, as the state comptroller quite rightly says, to start taking responsibility for their actions.
Sir, – We live in a democratic country and workers have the right to strike. However, to have people with illnesses go through a 30-hour preparation for a colonoscopy examination and then, when they come to the hospital, to tell them sorry, we’re on strike, is inhuman! For these cases one can decide on a strike a day before so that people don’t have to go through the agony of the preparation.
If I had any sympathy for the striking nurses, it certainly disappeared on the spot.
Recognizing us
Sir, – The State of Israel has been in existence for less than a century and has spent a very large share of that time defending its existence, including its right to be recognized as the Jewish state. Abandoning this in the face of Palestinian aggression and Palestinian anti-Jewish hatred makes no sense.
Efraim Halevy (“Former Mossad chief says Israel doesn’t need recognition,” February 28) is opening the door to a partitioned Israeli capital. The Palestinians must recognize Israel as the Jewish state or there will never be sound bilateral relations between us.
Halevy points out that this was not done with Jordan and Egypt. Perhaps this was a big mistake.
Sir, – In Greer Fay Cashman’s summary of Efraim Halevy’s lecture, she quoted the speaker’s assertion: “There will “never be an end to the conflict. So why should we demand a final border? Why should we always want the ultimate?” But she neglected to quote a later comment in which Halevy argued in favor of a provisional agreement with the Palestinians, for which Israel should be ready to surrender parts of Judea and Samaria.
Isn’t there a gross disconnect in his strategic thinking? Why should we prejudge the border by being ready to give away precious permanent assets such as our land?
Electoral reform
Sir, – The article by Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon on the need for electoral reform (“Preventing Israel’s political system from stagnation – and even collapse,” Comment & Features, February 27) makes excellent reading. His call for a hefty increase in the electoral threshold to ensure the exclusion of radical minority parties with purely narrow self-interests as their raison d’etre should now be supported by all major political parties.
The declaration of the Supreme Court regarding the Tal Law has created a unique window of opportunity where cooperation among these parties can put an end once and for all to their negative influence on national policy. The haredim and other fringe groups involved are fully aware of this danger and are being very quiet for the time being. They are correctly counting on the inability of the major parties to see beyond their own nose. A great pity.
However, Ayalon should also have mentioned the purely proportional electoral system, with the party machine’s control and selection of candidates who may have no connection whatsoever with the electorate. Ayalon should also be calling simultaneously for a 50 percent selection of Knesset members on the basis of direct regional electorates, as is the case in most parliamentary systems. This way, the MK is directly responsible to the voter.
Sir, – Over the 12 years I have been living in Israel I have frequently heard and read about electoral reform. The speaker of the Knesset has said how important it is to change the system, and now Danny Ayalon has written on the subject.
The question is, why cannot the system be changed? It is because all parties in the coalition have a veto on any proposed legislation that they believe harms their supporters. In this case, Shas, with only 10 percent of the Knesset’s MKs, can block any change to the system.
There have, of course, been many attempts over the years to change the system, and I believe that at one stage Labor and the Likud together (with between 80 and 90 seats) could have made the change but chose not to do so as they feared it might affect their electoral chances.
Where in all this, you might ask, does the Israeli citizen fit? The answer is nowhere, and until the system changes to allow a referendum on the subject I cannot see any change to the status quo. This needs to be dealt with before we even consider what electoral system we want, be it presidential, which Ayalon seems to want, or one of the European systems, such as those of Germany or France, or even proportional representation.
Whatever system is chosen it is important that our MKs are responsible to their constituents.
Sir, – Dream on Danny Ayalon!
Of course, Ayalon is absolutely right. Israel needs to change its electoral system to one of regional proportionate representation, and establish a constitution that would ensure the rights of all its citizens. However, it hardly seems feasible for the party he represents to propose either of these issues.
Israel Beiteinu does not even allow for primaries to select its Knesset list, and seeks to bring in laws that restrict civil rights and freedom of expression. On the other hand, we all know too well that two sectors of our society would never accept the definition “Jewish and democratic state” unless it were to affirm its responsibilities to all citizens without exception and not seek to impose conditional terms of a “citizen’s responsibility toward the state.”
True electoral reform would give the electorate a chance to be truly represented and force accountability from MKs and government ministers alike. Maybe it would even be possible to manage without a constitution, like the British do.
Information needed
Sir, – Dr. Lloyd Gartner, who died one year ago in Jerusalem, was emeritus professor of Jewish history at Tel Aviv University. He was also the founder and longtime chairman of the Israel branch of the Jewish Historical Society of England (JHSE).
As a memorial tribute, we are publishing a volume of essays titled The Jewish Emigrant from Britain, 1700-2000, to complement his ground-breaking work The Jewish Immigrant in England, 1870-1914.
The chapter dealing with aliya from Britain will include a section on former Kindertransport children who settled in Israel. Any reader who can provide first-hand information about Kindertransport immigrants and their experiences is invited to contact me by phone (074-701- 5597) or e-mail ([email protected] com). All published contributions will be duly acknowledged.

The writer is chairman of the Israel branch of JHSE