- 44 ;.
Tyranny Of The Minority
is NE THE
Israel's system of electing a government
may well be the most democratic — and
unworkable — in the world.
As this week's special section on the elec-
tion points out, most Israelis are frustrated
beyond caring. Despite the fact that this
election could be critical to the country's
future, particularly regarding the disposi-
tion of the territories and the prospects for
peace with the Arab states, the majority of
Israelis feel that no matter who they vote
for, the status quo will win.
That's because of the way governments
are formed in the Jewish State. The
Knesset has 120 seats, so at least 61 are
needed to form a majority. But since no
party has ever won a majority, and this
year appears to be no exception, the major
parties seek to form a coalition by inducing
the smaller parties to join them. In prac-
tical terms, parties with only two or three
seats in the Knesset have the power to
make or break a coalition. What has
happened in the past is that the small par-
_ ties demand cabinet level posts, and get
them, in return for their support — in
effect, the tyranny of the minority.
With Labor and Likud, the two major
parties, in another dead heat, the power of
the smaller parties once more promises to
be enormous, all of which is a source of
anger and frustration to the Israeli voter.
The Israeli people have staged mass
rallies, petition campaigns and other large-
scale efforts to voice their frustration with
the current system. It would be a tragedy if
they make their most powerful statement
by simply staying away from the polls next
chor for Detroit Jewry for years to come.
While many of the community's tradi-
tional benefactors have opted to withhold
significant financial support for the JPM
project, unwilling or unable to believe that
the area has a viable future, a grassroots
partnership, consisting of residents and an
enlightened group of Federation and Jewish
Community Center leaders, has accepted
the challenge and raised most of the needed
But their work is only beginning. The Jim-
my Prentis Morris Jewish Community
Center must not become another monu-
ment, like the under-utilized Rosenberg
Athletic Complex at the Maple-Drake JCC.
The JPM will become a community jewel on-
ly when the same level of commitment to
fund-raising is channeled into providing the
creative programming, quality staffing and
attentiveness to the needs of members that
are required to attract and retain the
broadest range of users.
Don't look now, but it seems that
America's participation in the Persian
Gulf War to save Kuwait and encourage its
involvement in democracy was a flop.
The speaker of Kuwait's National Coun-
cil, Abdul-Aziz Masaeed, said that the U.S.
sought to protect its interests rather than
do Kuwait a "favor" and accused the U.S.
ambassador of interfering in Kuwaiti af-
fairs by "talking about democracy."
Mr. Masaeed, a wealthy businessman
known for his pro-government views, made
his remarks in an interview last week in a
Saudi-owned magazine published in Lon-
FRIDAY, JUNE 19, 1992
What's needed is a major overhaul of the
electoral system. It is heartening that the
next national election — in several years —
will for the first time call for the direct
election of the prime minister. But to
diminish the clout of small parties, they
should be required to win at least 2 or 3
percent of the vote before winning a
Knesset seat; at present, 1 percent of the
vote is sufficient.
A Victory For Reinvestment
For years, there has been skepticism. Now
the final funds are being raised for a plan-
ned July 12 groundbreaking.
The renovation and expansion of the Jim-
my Prentis Morris Jewish Community
Center, a $3.5 million investment in the con-
tinued vitality of Jewish life in Oak Park,
Southfield and Huntington Woods, is a vic-
tory for those who believe it's time to stop
abandoning our older neighborhoods . . . and
to reinvest in them.
The rejuvenated JPM, the expansion of the
Jewish Federation Apartments, the salvag-
ing of the former B'nai Moshe building for
Yeshiva Beth Yehudah's use, the recreational
areas spanning 1-696 and the creation and
revitalization of shopping areas along key
thoroughfares, coupled with an influx of new
Americans from the former Soviet Union
and the successful Neighborhood Project
loan programs for purchasing or improving
residential dwellings, collectively can form
the nucleus of a cultural and spiritual an-
"America did not bring us back to our
country," he said. "If it weren't for the
wisdom of our government and the help of
Saudi Arabia, the Gulf Cooperation Coun-
cil, Egypt and Syria, we wouldn't have
This slap in America's face underscores
just how far removed even the moderate
Arab world is from Western thinking and
how naive Washington appears when it
speaks of bringing democracy to an Arab
state. And it points up, yet again, the folly
of the Bush administration portraying
Israel, the only democracy in the Mideast,
as the major stumbling block in the Arab-
Israeli peace negotiations.
* THE WORLD SIDES
A64JNST "THE U.S. IN
SUPPORT OF EcotoGY Ar
EARN SUMMIT' coNF.
I want to take this oppor-
tunity to thank you for a
great article ("Sinai Ascen-
ding," June 5). Needless to
say, I appreciate very much
your kind comments about
my background and current
activities at Sinai.
I am grateful for the sup-
port your organization has
given me and the recognition
of the importance of Sinai to
the Jewish community as
well as to the Greater Detroit
community. I know that we
will continue working
together to insure that the in-
terests of our Jewish consti-
tuency and the citizens of this
area are met.
Phillip S. Schaengold
President and CEO, Sinai Hospital
Your article "Love Songs"
(June 5) was beautiful. It con-
tinues The Jewish News' long
history of sensitive pieces
about people with disabilities.
Congratulations on a fine
Assistant Director, JARC
And James Baker
Ten leaders of prominent
American Jewish organiza-
tions recently held a secret
meeting with Secretary of
State James Baker, to discuss
matters of "mutual concern."
But that's all we know about
the meeting, because the
Jewish leaders have kept the
content of the discussion hid-
den from the American
In this crucial election year,
Jewish voters have a right to
know what the leaders of
their organizations are tell-
ing the Bush administratiorr
— and how the administra-
tion is responding.
The Jewish Telegraphic
Agency, which caught wind of
the meeting, reported tha+
the discussion was held at
Baker's initiative, to "help
strengthen the strained rela-
tionship between the adt-
ministration and the Jewish
That sounds like an
election-year ploy. After all,
relations between the Bush-
Baker administration and
American Jewry are "strain
ed" because of a series of con-
crete anti-Israel actions blk
the president and his aides.
Those "strains" will not be
repaired by soothing words
uttered behind closed doors.
Jewish voters have a right
to know what Baker and the
Jewish leaders discussed, &lb
that they can make an in-
formed choice when they go to
the polls in November. Since
those leaders met with Baker
as the purported represen-
tatives of the American
Jewish community, the coma
munity has a right to know
what was said in its name.
The era of secret promises
and behind-closed-doors reas-
surances should be over. In a
democracy, openness is vital.
(The writer is treasurer of the
Jewish Election Committee, a
that educates Jewish voters
about political candidates.)