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September 05, 1986 - Image 36

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1986-09-05

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Friday, September 5, 1986


Shaking The System

Continued from preceding page

can oleh (new immigrant) liv-
ing in Netanya exemplifies
His career had been in
health and sanitation, so he
volunteered to be a "health
observer" in Israel. He ob-
served, and reported to the
sanitation department, the
deplorable conditions in a cer-
tain restaurant, saying they
created a health hazard that
should be corrected immedi-
ately. The department official
gave a nebulous answer and
dismissed the oleh, who
responded that the official
was irresponsible and should
be fired. Whereupon the of-
ficial leaned back in his chair
and said, "My party has
700,000 votes that will keep
me right here in my job. How
many votes can you get to
remove me?"
Such arrogance, CCC em-
phasizes, is pervasive
throughout the bureaucracy,
demoralizing Israelis with
fresh ideas and rebuffing
foreign entrepreneurs with in-
vestment capital and
The mentality that govern-
ment employees are "doing
citizens a favor" by comply-
ing with their requests is in-
grained in the system. "And
the sad part," Harris la-
mented, "is_ that so many
Israelis have come to expect
this type of treatment as nor-
mal and proper, without even
realizing they are being
denied democratic rights.
Electoral Reform will correct
all that. It will take our coun-
try out of the Dark Ages."
Simcha Dinitz, CCC's cur- -
rent president, recently said,
"Politicians must be re-
minded at all times that they
were elected to represent the
people, not to replace them,
and bureaucrats must be
constantly made aware that
they are there to serve the
people, not to torment them."
Economic Minister Gad
Yaacobi, a long-time cham-
pion of Electoral Reform, is
spearheading the current
movement. His proposal
would retain part of the exist-
ing system, and introduce a
new dimension into Israeli
politics: constituent
According to Yaacobi's
plan, the country would be
divided into 16 voting dis-
tricts, or constituencies. Each
would elect five represen-
tatives to the Knesset, total-
ing 80. The remaining 40
would gain Knesset seats
under the existing propor-
tional representation system.
"The new system would bring
the best candidates to the
fore, and allow the electorate
to choose from the most qual-
ified each party has to offer,"
Yaacobi said.
Since 1971, Yaacobi has
managed to bring the pro-
posal to the Knesset floor
several times, but it never

gained the 61 votes needed
for passage. Once, he did get
61 votes on the first reading,
but the opposition smothered
the action at committee levels.
Although Yaacobi support-
ers- are influential — Herzog,
Dinitz, Communications Min-
ister Amnon Rubinstein, Ed-
ucation Minister Yitzhak
Navon, and CCC, to mention
a few — the opposition is
strong, too. It includes
Minister Without Portfolio
Moshe Arens and Transport
Minister Haim Corfu, plus
the small parties whose ex-
istence would be threatened.
An editorial in the
Jerusalem Post this month
advocating an "overhaul" of
the electoral system noted
that Yaacobi's most recent ef-
fort had the support of 44
Knesset members. But Likud
leader Yitzhak Shamir de-
layed the measure, reasoning
that he might need the sup-
port of the small religious
parties who strongly oppo5f,!.
the bill because it would
reduce their power. The Post
editorial called on the
Knesset "to stand up and be
counted" in changing a
system whose "grave defects
have become manifest."
Harris outlined some of the
proposed system's advantages
voters will choose candidates
of their choice, legislators will
be accountable to the people,
minority blackthail of the ma-
jority will be eliminated, in-
dividual citizens and their
elected representatives will
establish direct relations. In
the process, she said, many of
the smaller parties might in-
deed disappear. However,
they could form coalitions
among themselves or with
the larger parties to assure
that their ideologies survive.
Philadelphia-born Eliezer
Whartman, veteran Israeli
journalist and currently
editor of the Israeli Press Ser-
vice, has written numerous
articles supporting Electoral
Reform. In one, he quotes the
answer of former minister
Mordechai Ben Porat when
Whartman asked him, in the
Knesset cafeteria, why so
many MKs opposed changing
the system. `Look around
you," Porat said. "Most of
these people couldn't get
elected dog catchers if they
ran on a constituency basis.
They know it, and they're
determined not to change
things. In a way, you can't
blame them."
lb be sure, many MKs are
conscientious, capable
lawmakers of the highest in-
tegrity. But, like all MKs,
they must vote the party line.
CCC's chairman, Dr. Mark
Casson, compared Israel's
Knesset and Cabinet to royal-
ty. "Israel has become a con-
glomerate of party fiefdoms,
each with its own king and
each exercising 'Divine Right'

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