Israel needs Perestroika
Israel’s political system as rotten as the USSR’s under Brezhnev.
Israel’s Russian-language community, which makes up more than 20% of Jewish population, feels deep revulsion not only for Olmert and his incompetent cabinet, but for the rotten ideology, the political system, and the political culture of the ruling establishment as well. In the realm of ideology we want to replace post-Zionism with universal Zionism. In politics, to separate legislative and executive branches and move on to Presidential system. In political culture, replace the nepotism with meritocracy. Otherwise Israel will not survive.
When Israeli media discusses the war and the state-related issues in general, you will not see a single Russian columnist. Well-regarded figures like Avigdor Liberman and Natan Scharansky pop up occasionally, but other than that, the community that makes up 20% of Israel’s Jewish population is practically invisible. There are more Israeli Arabs commenting on current affairs than Russian immigrants. Unless the subject is a specific immigrants’ problem, you will not see a Russian professor, writer, or journalist on Israeli TV. At the same time, the percentage of university graduates among Russian Israelis is twice as high as among native-born, including experts on all aspects of public life. A quick look at Russian-language papers – there are more than a dozen in Israel – or Russian-language Internet, you will find that all are in agreement: Israel is as rotten as the Soviet Union under Brezhnev.
This is how most immigrants from Russia feel about Israel’s political system:
The Israeli cohabitation of the legislative and executive branches must come to an end. You can no longer form the government of the people heading the lists of the parties that have consented to join the ruling coalition. Israeli ministries, instead of administrative powers, have become a bribe to buy the coalition’s stability. Newly appointed ministers merely lobby for their electorates, damaging the interests of the whole people and the state. The Coalition Games result in most Israeli ministers playing endless musical chairs without bothering to learn about the business of a given ministry. On the job, they push forth doomed populist projects, which the ministry workers never even try to implement, since they know that the next minister will cancel this decision and bring up one of his own, which will be just as impractical. No wonder: to him, the Minister’s job is merely a way of earning political capital for the coming election.
The current system of Israeli government makes any reform practically impossible. Even the reforms that need to be made out of necessity are implemented ineptly and inefficiently, often causing yet more damage. This system renders impossible even the most basic planning – the foundation of managing the country – and most positive changes take place not thanks to the executive branch, but despite it.
In this situation, presidential rule in Israel - is the only way out. We need a system where people will elect the head of state, who will appoint a professional government that is not linked to the Parliament or dependent on coalition games and political struggles. This government will be immune to parties’ blackmail and able to do its job – run the State – while the Knesset will do its job, legislating and overseeing the executive branch.
Of course this reform is not attractive for current Knesset members, since it deprives them of a chance to land in a minister’s chair, with its abundant perks. Yet the Israelis’ disappointment with the current system is growing. Lack of faith in the Knesset and the government is nationwide. More and more people see the elections as a combination of PR manipulations.
A separate problem is the absolute rule of the justice establishment, headed by Israel’s Supreme Court, a body no one elected, but one that – representing mostly the radical left wing – keeps canceling the laws passed by the Knesset.
The current political system in Israel is unstable in times of crisis and incapable of acting constructively. This is why the issue of dividing powers and reforming the legal system in the conditions of the Middle East is the issue of the state’s basic survival. Right now this issue is as vital as never before.
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