Desperately seeking political courage

It is remarkable that, of all parties, a call for a change in the broken government system should have come from Kadima.

Livni doing a hand thing 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Livni doing a hand thing 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The recent op-ed in The Jerusalem Post (“Toward a dead end,” February 8) by Dalia Itzik, chairwoman of the Kadima faction, is disingenuous. In the article the state of the present government and our parliamentary system are attacked, with a call for badly needed government reform.
It is remarkable that of all parties, these words could have been written by a member of Kadima. As I am sure members of Kadima are aware, when the results of the last elections were known, Israel Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman called on Kadima and the Likud to create a government containing the three largest parties, with the sole purpose of electoral reform.
When President Shimon Peres called on each party chairman to recommend a prime minister, Israel Beiteinu named Binyamin Netanyahu with the hope that Kadima could raise itself above petty politics to work for the good of the country.
With a government of just three large parties, real reform could have been achieved. Once that task was accomplished, we could have immediately called for new elections and allowed the people to choose a leadership using a new, workable system.
AT THE establishment of the state, the electoral system was understandably created to cater to all the disparate groups in society. The system ensured that all groups – Jews and Arabs, religious and secular, Ashkenazi and Sephardi, socialists and liberals – received representation proportionate to their size and support. It was important that the government make the very tough decisions by a plurality of opinion.
However, we now see that this system has outlasted its usefulness. Today, our broken system stands in the way of many areas of development.
It is absurd that in the past two decades we have had almost as many defense ministers as years. It is impossible to achieve a consistent policy with such constant change, and this is to the detriment of our security. And the same is true of almost every ministry.
With that in mind, I cannot understand the resistance to changing the system among many of the current parties.
I well remember representing Israel Beiteinu at a debate before the last elections. A question was asked by the moderator about each party’s position on electoral and government reform. Half of the parties stated that the system isn’t broken, so why fix it. The other half stated that the system is broken, but we can’t fix it. Only I, as a representative of Israel Beiteinu, said openly and assuredly that the system is broken and we must fix it.
From my time as ambassador in Washington, I have admired the American system. While no government is perfect, the American system appears to strike the right balance between governability and representation.
In autocratic regimes you have maximum governability, because the leadership can make decisions without an opposition, and there are no checks or balances. Here, we are perhaps too far toward the other extreme; we have almost complete representation with little governability.
The American system keeps the legislature and the executive completely separate, unlike in this country, where we have an absurd situation in which a government official like myself sits in the legislature overseeing my own performance in the government.
The American system also calls for greater accountability – almost a dirty word in our politics. Since its inception, even when it was a small party, Israel Beiteinu has consistently argued for a reform of our system.
It’s high time that politicians put aside their egos and work for the people. After all, we as elected officials work for the people, and not the other way around. The people want change, and are sick and tired of all the wheeling and dealing within the coalition that is necessary to pass the simplest of laws.
Like much of the status quo, this approach was created for a different time and other circumstances.
Israel Beiteinu seeks to change the status quo and find answers to questions that our elected politicians are afraid to touch. That is not how one leads. A leader needs vision and an answer to every problem.
The public is sophisticated enough to understand that we can’t keep pushing off decisions for the next generation, even if our current leaders will not immediately reap the benefits.
When the nation desperately needed political courage, Kadima was found wanting. So it is ironic that Itzik is calling for something her leader disregarded less than two years ago, when it was most required.
The writer is deputy foreign minister.