A bungling election system …

December 3, 2008 at 3:27 pm 1 comment

Who should choose the

best system?

Definitely not the politicians!

ballotOne way of arriving at the most suitable electoral system for Israel’s government and Knesset, would be to create a public forum consisting of a dozen trustworthy individuals – large enough to form broad, workable and intelligent proposals while not becoming too cumbersome. Members should meet certain professional criteria and be chosen for intelligence, general knowledge, honesty and concern for Israel and the Jewish people. These people will be from disciplines that will have enabled them to gain wide knowledge of political systems. They will be political scientists, sociologists, historians, journalists and people who had once been politicians. There will be certain personality requirements such as the ability to work calmly and respectfully with others; they cannot be immovably stubborn or conceited. An additional important requirement for membership in this forum must be a complete absence of any active or passive political affiliation in the last few years.

Furthermore, none of them should have held positions of top leadership in any government or public office, or in any large commercial enterprise. The reason for this is that a large proportion of the nation’s wealth is in the hands of a few dozen families, who are able to influence decision-making at the more prominent levels of society. There might be a better chance of preventing undue pressure by these sources of capital if we restrict the decision-making regarding the entire process of electoral change to ordinary people – because they should be less prone to pressure from vested interests. There is a limitless source of brilliant, untapped potential among people who have never reached positions of prominence. We must find them. Also, the amount of bungling among those who have reached executive positions, is clear in every aspect of life in Israel. That is not to say that all directors are bunglers.

But the whole subject of finding the most suitable electoral system is far too important an issue to be allowed to flounder because of the inability of people in high positions who are invariably used to dictating issues or riding roughshod over others. While there are many marvelous people connected presently or in the past with the political system, and many brilliant, world-class academics and astute captains of industry in Israel’s society, it is of cardinal importance to select a team of people who will be able to work together.

The forum should also be closed to any high-ranking ex-army personnel. Despite the fact that many of these people are of the very highest calibre in every way, the reason for their omission would have to do with habits drawn from a lifetime in the military. Having given orders from a position of high command is not a suitable preparation for teamwork, careful, objective deliberation and consideration of ordinary people’s opinions.

But who chooses the forum?

This is yet another vital question. Again, not the politicians, nor anyone officially part of the religious, academic or business hierarchy, although some of the members of the forum and the group selecting the forum could come from these sectors.

The group that is to nominate candidates for the forum could be called the “Selection Committee” could be made up of seven or eight retired people with excellent records of accomplishment and integrity. They will have worked in general occupations such as farming, teaching, accountancy, medicine and journalism, business, or a trade such as building, carpentary, etc. They will be people known as the”salt of the earth.” This group should be given twelve to sixteen weeks, searching relevant sources and scouting the country and society, in order to select a dozen of the most suitable people who will form the forum.

And how do we choose the Selection Committee

We mentioned earlier that a number of groups have been working over the last few years to promote electoral reform. I suggest that a small committee (not more than seven people) made up from the various groups, will do this preliminary work. It can be called “The Council. It will lay down ground rules for it’s own mode of functioning and for the criteria in choosing the Selection Committee and making sure that it functions according to the principles of good team work and honest deliberation. The Council will also make sure that the Forum, when it is chosen, will function according to these same principles.

The process of choosing a Selection Committee will be done in a number of ways. Firstly, through personal contacts if members of the Council know any really suitable potential nominations. Secondly, by placing announcements in the newspapers inviting people to suggest themselves or others for the purpose of being part of a procedure leading to the application of a new electoral system.

What gives us the right to determine these procedures?

The wonderful thing about democracy is that an ordinary citizen can make suggestions and actions as long as he or she doesn’t cause any harm or unjustified defamation. We strongly belief that electoral reform is one of the most vital needs for the survival of Israel. Since nothing sufficiently effective has been done by the government or any other public or private body, we are taking it upon ourselves to do whatever it takes to apply electoral change in this country.

We invite everyone who is interested to join us and to suggest any changes you might deem necessary to our effort. Meanwhile, we have taken it upon ourselves to make the changes, and this also means establishing the framework and procedures that will eventually lead to electoral change.

Groundrules for success

To facilitate optimum cooperation among the various groups, there must be strict groundrules for harmonious deliberation at every stage. These groundrules (which could be applicable to any unit, group or organization) must include qualities such as truthfulness, objectivity and sincere consideration for the opinion of others. All discussions must be made with courtesy and friendliness. Dictatorial attitudes or modes of behaviour must be banned. People who are easily insulted, frustrated, or conversely, who readily insult others, cannot be part of any of the selection groups. It must be remembered that this is not supposed to be a great ego trip, therefore participants must aspire for totally mature deliberation. They should even be able to argue against their own proposals.

Once a forum is formed, it should commit itself to come up with an ideal proposal or proposals in less than 72 days. These proposals will be announced publicly and should lead to a public discussion, conducted with the help of various media channels and public forums, and culminating in a national referendum organized by an official body such as the Jewish Agency or a movement or a group of movements involved in proper governance such as the Movement of Quality Government.

We cannot allow the government to procrastinate

As mentioned earlier, because of its unsatisfactory record in establishing proper governance, the government itself should not be involved in the process of proposing a suitable electoral system. But once the proposal is voted for in a public referendum, it will eventually be up to the Knesset to vote on it so as to make the new electoral system binding by law.

The public will demand that the set procedures of the proposal being presented as a bill to the Knesset, followed by Knesset Committee readings and the subsequent votes, be done without any undue delay. A reasonable time limit of three months should be suggested to the Knesset.

All contact with the Knesset should be conducted politely, amiably and respectfully. It is quite possible that the Knesset will vote against any change in the electoral system, or only for partial change. The proposal might not even reach the first stage of a preliminary vote. In the event of any of these reactions by the Knesset, the public will have to continue its pressure on the politicians and if necessary to wage a general strike. The issue is so crucial that all legitimate means must be employed to bring about suitable electoral reform with a minimum of delay.

The urgent need for personal involvement

Clearly, the ordinary citizens must join in the protest demonstrations with alacrity. At the moment we comprise a few dozen folks, but our numbers will grow exponentially. We are talking about a struggle that might take a few years, but it must be done.

There will be three kinds of demonstrations:

(A) Small demonstrations comprising groups of up to five six participants, which will be seen every day all over the country, at intersections and city squares. The purpose of these demonstrations will be mainly to inform the public of the need for direct-regional elections and a call to join the protest. Apart from the slogans on the placards and banners, the demonstrators will hand out promotional material to passersby.

(B) Larger demonstrations comprising more than ten demonstrators, staged outside the homes of political figures. The purpose will be to prod those who oppose electoral change with appropriately-worded placards. These will also be loud so that there will be no ignoring them. They will take place less frequently than the first kind, but often enough to be felt by the targeted politicians.

(C) The third kind of protest will be the mass demonstration taking place opposite the Knesset, government buildings and other appropriate venues. These will take place every few weeks and be loud media events. They must comprise at least a thousand participants each time and eventually reach tens and even hundreds of thousands of noisy citizens expressing their anger, disgust and absolute determination to see the system changed as soon as possible.

We must discard the insular, apathetic, negative and defeatist attitudes that have taken root in society during the last decade or so. Personal priorities must be changed. We have to be willing to devote as much time as possible in participating in some kind of activity connected with the demonstrations. There are many things we can all do. Those who might find that standing in a demonstration for an hour or two is overly strenuous, can participate in other ways such as help in making placards, thinking up slogans, calling on friends and relatives to join the demos, help organize, or drive participants to meeting places. Centers launching demonstrations will have to be set up in various parts of the country. Each center will need all the above-mentioned activities. There should also be contact and corroboration with other groups that are working for electoral change ? as long as they are not politically initiated and eschew nastiness as a policy.

People who really care about Israel

We are a quickly-growing group of people of all ages and from all walks of life, from all over Israel − who care about Israel. So far we have not set ourselves up as an official organization and we are not affiliated to any other ideological, political or religious group or party. Some of us do have personal loyalties to some particular political or religious line, but these loyalties do not clash with our commitment to electoral change.

Our funding has come from our own pockets or from private donations. To contact us call Rafi Dobrin 054-4334051.

For more on electoral reform and the effectiveness of protest demonstrations: www.israelandtruth.org/demo.htm

 

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The BBC A light unto the nations

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Ken Besig  |  December 4, 2008 at 4:36 pm

    Dear Rafi,
    I really enjoyed your commentary. You are well researched, fact oriented, logical, very well informed as to the local political and financial conditions, and your opinions are well thought out. That is why I find it so difficult to understand why you still believe that the unscrupulous, fraudulent, and ineffective Israeli electoral system can ever be fundamentally and positively changed. You rightfully acknowledge that the very beneficieries of the present system, the political parties and the ultra wealthy Israeli elite, will never work to change the system since any positive change work against their interests.
    Moreover, you would need at least the tacit support of the Israeli media in order to garner the widespread support such a change would entail, and that media is directly controlled by that same Israeli elite and only employs individuals beholden to them, thus your movement, no matter how effective at the grass roots would remain there, and almost no one would even know what you are doing. But the single most effective factor militating against your movement is our political party system. Our present system allows, no demands, that party hacks and their useless hangerson, sit in the Knesset and blindly and often stupidly, support and vote in favor of dangerous, expensive, and usually failed policies safe in the knowledge that the Israeli public cannot touch them and make them pay for their failure. The best we voters can hope for is to change the parties from within and make them at least put for regional candidates on their primary lists so that we voters have someone to turn to with our problems and an address to vote for or against in the next election. I really did enjoy reading your commentary and not just on this topic, but on changing the electoral system, this is one I think there is no chance whatsoever of success, ever.

    Reply

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