Israel’s 60th Birthday

Israel at 60: The Dysfunctional Jewish State by Dave
April 6, 2008, 6:33 pm
Filed under: Israel, Israel at 60, Jewish State, Zionism | Tags: ,

The following article is from the economist. its a terrible article but I’m looking at all the press on the birthday and thought others might be interested. It does suggest that the obstacle to peace is the Israeli Government without actually saying it – which is of course the case. I can’t offer a great critique at the moment due to lack of time – but I think its worth saying Israel is not a ‘pure’ democracy as there are no equal rights in the country and it refuses the right of sovereignty for the Palestinians living in the occupied territories. I agree with ex-President Jimmy Carter when he calls it an Apartheid State. Also it seems to have gone down Orwells memory hole that Hamas want to negitiate peace -Israel refuses- and that Hamas took control after its was democratically elected and the US/Israel organised a military coup against them.

I thought the following comment from WaxMax might be useful

Israel is the obstacle to peace.

If it wanted peace it could have had it any time it wished. It is infinitely stronger than the Palestinians, has unconditional backing of the US, and would get the support of the world if it stepped up to the table.

But peace would mean having to define its borders, and stop illegal settlements. It would mean having to deal with the rights of Palestinians the Jewish expansion has dispossessed. Dealing with Jerusalem, and refugees. In short: obeying international law.

No. Israel does not want peace. Even when they “talk” peace they continue bulldozing Palestinian homes in the West Bank. They have destroyed any possibility of a two state solution. The only way forward now is to combine all the land, and create a democratic state for all its citizens. Only then will there be peace.

Heres the article –

The best 60th birthday present Israel could give itself is a new political system

Illustration by David Simonds

THERE are many reasons why the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has remained so intractable: land, religion, national identity, history, the scars of violence, the meddling of outside powers and global ideological strife. But one factor that gets less attention than it should is quite mundane, and yet extremely influential: the Israeli electoral system.

Israel, which turns 60 this May, is a pure representative democracy. Virtually every social group has its own political party, if not several. This means that none of the country’s many ethnic and religious subsets is disenfranchised. But as a result all governments are unstable multi-party coalitions subject to perverse incentives that have more to do with politicians’ careers than with the wishes of the electorate at large.

The peace process Israel launched last autumn with the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, exemplifies this. Its goal is to make the moderate Mr Abbas more attractive to Palestinians than the Hamas party, which rejects full peace with Israel and which took control of the Gaza Strip last summer. The method is for Israel to negotiate a deal for a future Palestinian state with Mr Abbas, while improving life for Palestinians in the West Bank, where he remains in charge. But the plan is failing because Israel cannot make concessions that would give Mr Abbas the necessary boost. This is not just because Israelis distrust the Palestinians in general and Mr Abbas’s capabilities in particular. For all their distrust, most Israelis still think a Palestinian state is their own best chance for a peaceful life.

No, the main obstacles are political. One party in Ehud Olmert’s coalition, Shas, has sworn to scupper the peace talks as soon as they get anywhere meaningful. Another, Labour, is led by Ehud Barak, who as the defence minister oversees many aspects of Palestinian life in the West Bank. It falls to him to do things that might make Mr Abbas more popular, such as reducing the number of checkpoints that throttle the West Bank. But he has prime ministerial ambitions and is trying to brand himself as more hawkish than Mr Olmert in anticipation of an election that could happen at any time. This week he seemed to soften a little, but only under American pressure.

Meanwhile, Israel’s settlers in the West Bank have woven such tight alliances with various parties that they have made themselves effectively untouchable, even though they are only a tiny proportion of Israeli society. As a result, the government is incapable even of enforcing Israel’s own laws in the West Bank. It has not made good on a promise to remove even a few of the hundred-odd settlement “outposts” built without permission. Nor has it done anything about revelations that much of the building in even the officially approved settlements has been on illegally expropriated private Palestinian land, not state land as originally claimed.

Let the voters decide for a change

As our special report this week explains, political deadlock or the capture of the political system by special-interest groups add to many of Israel’s other woes, such as the botching of the war against Hizbullah in Lebanon in 2006, the decline of the education system and the dwindling pool of army conscripts due to religious exemptions. In other democracies a rebellion by members of the government is rare and extreme. In Israel it is the norm. This makes it hard to take bold decisions and almost entirely banishes considerations of the greater good and the longer term—all things that making peace requires.

Not that the Palestinians themselves are ready and waiting for Israel to sign a treaty. Thanks to the Hamas-Fatah schism (for which Israel and its allies are partly responsible), there is nobody with full authority for Israel to negotiate with. Even when there was, that leader—Mr Abbas, and before him Yasser Arafat—did too little for peace, in part because Palestinian politics is just as dysfunctional as Israel’s, though in a different way. Nonetheless, there have often been times when Israel could have done more than it did without taking undue risks. Petty calculations of coalition politics stopped it.

Israel has achieved some remarkable things during its 60 years. But for the sake of its security and domestic well-being, it now needs a system that makes politicians answerable to voters, not to other politicians. What shape it should take—whether a mixture of proportional representation with electoral districts, higher thresholds to keep small parties out of the parliament, or just rules to make it harder to topple governments—is up to Israelis. Unfortunately, since their politicians will design and vote on it, it is unlikely to be optimal; but almost anything would be better than what there is now.


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