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Political Corruption in Israel

by URI AVNERY Friday, Sep. 29, 2006 at 1:57 PM

HAD HAMLET been a reserve soldier in the Israeli army, he might now declare: "Something is rotten in the State of Israel!"

Because of a Small Nail

Political Corruption in Israel

By URI AVNERY

HAD HAMLET been a reserve soldier in the Israeli army, he might now declare: "Something is rotten in the State of Israel!"

And indeed, something is rotten -

* The President of the State refuses to suspend himself, in face of eight individual accusations of sexual harassment. He whines about a monstrous conspiracy against him and points at Netanyahu's men in the Likud.

* The Prime Minister and the Minister of Defense refuse to resign, in spite of the overwhelming majority of the public's expressed lack of confidence in Ehud Olmert (70%) and Amir Peretz (82%). Instead of agreeing to the establishment of an independent judicial commission of inquiry, they have set up an examining committee that has already lost the confidence of the majority of the public--even before it has started to investigate the events of the Lebanon War.

* The Chief-of-Staff, under attack from retired and serving generals, declares that he "will not take off his uniform until somebody tears it off."

* The chairman of the Knesset Foreign and Military Affairs Committee is indicted for fraud and perjury.

* The Minister of Justice is on trial for pushing his tongue into the mouth of a female soldier.

According to the polls, the overwhelming majority of the population is happy with their personal situation (80%) but depressed about the situation of the state (59%).

So what to do?

Simple: just change the system.

* * *

THIS IS a typical Israeli reaction. Perhaps typically human.

When a crisis threatens to upset the foundations of our perceptions, we tend to turn away from the main issue and concentrate all our attention on some detail. Thus we are relieved from questioning our basic beliefs and the world-view we are accustomed to. We take some detail, as small as possible, and put all the blame on it. That's it! Found it! That's the guilty part!

As the old song goes: "All because of a small nail!" So when a major disaster occurs, we find the small nail that caused it, and we need not look further.

For example: the Yom-Kippur war. Why did this bloody war break out at all? Why didn't we accept President Anwar Sadat's earlier offer of peace in exchange for the return of the Sinai? Why did our Ship of Fools blithely sail from the Six-day war to the Yom-Kippur war on a sea of arrogance?

No, such questions were not asked. But what was asked? Things like: Why didn't the army intelligence department warn us that the Egyptians and Syrians were about to attack? Why weren't the reserve units called up in time? Why weren't the "instruments" (tanks and artillery) moved to the canal?

It was called "The Omission". That was the slogan of the mass protest movement that sprang up and swept away Golda Meir and Moshe Dayan.

That's like emptying the ashtray when a car breaks down. Now something similar is happening.

* * *

THE POLLS show that the public has no confidence in the leadership. But the public does not say: We voted for these leaders, so we are to blame. That would be an unpleasant admission. What they say is: It's not our fault. So who is to blame? The "system", of course.

That's because our parliamentary democracy does not assure the Prime Minister a full term of four years. He can fall before that. It also compels him to include in his government leaders of the coalition parties, even if they are quite incompetent to direct their ministries. The Prime Minister cannot plan long-term policy, nor put capable experts in charge of the ministries.

That's very bad. Therefore, we must adopt the American system. The people will elect a president, who will serve at least four full years. He will choose a cabinet composed of outstanding personalities, each one an expert in his field. Thus Zion will be redeemed.

* * *

THIS IS the purest snake oil--one bottle to cure all illnesses, without pain and without delay.

First of all, one cannot simply transfer a political system from one country to another. Every state has its own tradition, its own specific culture, its own social set-up. A political system must grow from within. It cannot be imposed on another people. When one tries to do that, the society adapts it to its own requirements and changes it beyond recognition. (Japan after World War II springs to mind.) Only out-of-touch professors in ivory towers could imagine that the illnesses of a society can be cured by an ideal political system copied from another country.

That has already been proven in Israel: under the influence of some professors, our "system" was changed some years ago. It was decided that the Prime Minister would be elected directly, separately from the Knesset elections. But soon it became obvious that this system was worse than the one before it. So the Wise Ones took counsel and changed the whole thing back again.

But there's no need for us to go through that experience ourselves. In order to appreciate the advantages of the presidential system, it's enough to look at the situation in its homeland: the United States.

What has this system achieved there? Indeed, the president has at least four full years, but many would add "alas!" When it is discovered that a complete idiot has been elected and embroils his country in disastrous adventures, he cannot be removed. In our parliamentary system, as in the United Kingdom, a Prime Minister can be removed with comparative ease. Tony Blair will be gone within a year, while George Bush serves out his full term.

Are the American ministers more competent than ours? Is Donald Rumsfeld less of a disaster than Amir Peretz?

Moreover, in order to be elected president, a candidate needs huge sums of money. Such heavy money can come only from interest groups, lobbies and large corporations. The American system is corrupt to the core--a corruption so deep and wide, it makes the sins of Olmert & Co. look innocent.

* * *

BUT LOGIC is not the key to this discussion, because the demand for system change is serving as a cover for something much more sinister: the call for a Leader.

Such calls always arise in times of crisis. When there is a feeling of defeat and a climate of distrust of the old leadership, people long for a strong father. Democracy looks weak and rotten, especially faced with the legend that the politicians have "prevented the army from winning." A strong leader solves problems with an iron fist. A policy of dialogue and agreements is something for weaklings.

It must be clear: the proposal to adopt the presidential system is nothing other than a disguised call for an all-powerful leader. One has only to look at those who propose it.

The foremost advocate of "system change" is Avigdor Liberman, the leader of the "Israel Our Home" party, composed mainly of immigrants from the former Soviet Union. This is a party of the radical Right--to use an understatement. In other countries, they might be called by another name.

"Israel Our Home" stands for unbridled nationalism and xenophobia. It is more radical than Joerg Haider in Austria and Jean-Marie Le-Pen in France. It calls for all Palestinians to leave the country, including the Arab citizens of Israel proper, who constitute 20% of the population. That does not prevent Ehud Olmert from declaring publicly that he would like to have this party in his government. (When Haider joined the Austrian government, Israel recalled its ambassador from Vienna.)

Liberman, who wants to be Minister of Defense, has set five conditions for joining the government, headed by the demand for the adoption of the presidential system. It is quite clear who his candidate for president is: Avigdor Liberman.

The polls say that if elections were held now, Liberman's party would get 16 seats in the 120-seat Knesset (compared to 11 seats in the present assembly). To this, one must add the nine seats occupied in the present Knesset by the "National Union", whose leader, a knitted-kippa-wearing general, publicly demands the expulsion of all Arabs from the occupied Palestinian territories, and the withdrawal of democratic rights from the Arab citizens of Israel itself. When such parties constitute a fifth of the voting public, there is certainly cause for concern.

* * *

I BELIEVE in Israeli democracy. It is an incredible phenomenon, considering where most Israeli citizens or their parents came from: Czarist and Communist Russia, the Poland of Pilsudsky and his heirs, Morocco, Iraq, Iran and Syria--in addition to those born in colonial Palestine under the rule of the British High Commissioner. Like the resurrection of the Hebrew language, which has no parallel in the world, this democracy is a miracle. (This means, of course, democracy in Israel proper. In the occupied territories, a very different situation prevails.)

I don't believe that there is a concrete danger of the rise of fascism at present. But we have to be on our guard, every day and every hour. Several factors may promote fascist tendencies here: the feeling of defeat in war, the legend of the "the stab in the back of the army", lack of confidence in the democratic system, a widening gap between rich and poor, incitement against the national minority described as a Fifth Column.

That is more than a small nail.

Uri Avnery is an Israeli writer and peace activist with Gush Shalom. He is one of the writers featured in The Other Israel: Voices of Dissent and Refusal. He is also a contributor to CounterPunch's hot new book The Politics of Anti-Semitism. He can be reached at: avnery@counterpunch.org.

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TITLE AUTHOR DATE
Don't get this perspective in mainstream u.s. media Don't get this perspective in mainstream u.s. Friday, Sep. 29, 2006 at 2:06 PM
Another so what? Another so what? Friday, Sep. 29, 2006 at 2:38 PM
I came to a different conclusion Becky Johnson Saturday, Sep. 30, 2006 at 5:20 AM
speak of the dead not the living hex Saturday, Sep. 30, 2006 at 5:52 AM
"such respect for the dead" ? Saturday, Sep. 30, 2006 at 8:02 AM
but what about them cries the occupier hex Saturday, Sep. 30, 2006 at 8:15 AM
Trying to hide? From what? pathetic... Saturday, Sep. 30, 2006 at 8:20 AM
hide from - wasting time ? hex Saturday, Sep. 30, 2006 at 9:18 AM
I'm not here to disrupt, distract and discredit, blah blah common sense Saturday, Sep. 30, 2006 at 9:24 AM
I'm here to divert attention from the occupation hex Saturday, Sep. 30, 2006 at 9:37 AM
another axe grinder swings hex Saturday, Sep. 30, 2006 at 11:54 AM
O' face saver, BJ's and "We" hex Saturday, Sep. 30, 2006 at 12:33 PM
Laching onto the Zionist issue?? hecks Saturday, Sep. 30, 2006 at 12:37 PM
"me", "we" and "us" hex Saturday, Sep. 30, 2006 at 12:48 PM
Why be sad? What the heck Saturday, Sep. 30, 2006 at 12:57 PM
Who said this??? Becky Johnson Saturday, Sep. 30, 2006 at 1:41 PM
"I BELIEVE in Israeli democracy. It is an incredible phenomenon" TW Sunday, Oct. 01, 2006 at 12:08 AM
Still no Cupie Doll Becky Johnson Sunday, Oct. 01, 2006 at 4:05 AM
apples & oranges & bait hex Sunday, Oct. 01, 2006 at 4:39 AM
maybe there's hope after all hex Sunday, Oct. 01, 2006 at 4:48 AM
You up for more debate? Becky Johnson Sunday, Oct. 01, 2006 at 5:19 AM
because I don't DO radio shows hex Sunday, Oct. 01, 2006 at 5:59 AM
Becky DOES Radio shows doesn't just pirate other people's work Sunday, Oct. 01, 2006 at 6:05 AM
"pirate other people's work" hex Sunday, Oct. 01, 2006 at 6:19 AM
"the subject of manners " hexi-gone Sunday, Oct. 01, 2006 at 7:25 AM
Eh...hell hexi-gone Sunday, Oct. 01, 2006 at 7:42 AM
even his own cabinet hex Sunday, Oct. 01, 2006 at 7:53 AM
More re: Arafat Sunday, Oct. 01, 2006 at 8:14 AM
Are you stupid or just got a super-short memory, or just lazy? hexi-gone Sunday, Oct. 01, 2006 at 8:14 AM
money verses murder, ankle biting trolls verses zionists hex Sunday, Oct. 01, 2006 at 8:39 AM
Money verses muder? hexi-gone Sunday, Oct. 01, 2006 at 9:12 AM
How many times must we do this? Sheepdog Sunday, Oct. 01, 2006 at 9:25 AM
How many times must we do this? hexi-gone Sunday, Oct. 01, 2006 at 9:35 AM
yeah , nobody likes a snitch Sheepdog thinks it's sweet. Sunday, Oct. 01, 2006 at 9:40 AM
unwrapping the BS Sheepdog Sunday, Oct. 01, 2006 at 9:43 AM
Not forgetting sheepishism Sunday, Oct. 01, 2006 at 9:54 AM
police escort? Sheepdog Sunday, Oct. 01, 2006 at 10:39 AM
Don't quite get your drift Dung the sheepster Sunday, Oct. 01, 2006 at 10:53 AM
"sheepster" hex Sunday, Oct. 01, 2006 at 11:32 AM
the other side Sheepdog Sunday, Oct. 01, 2006 at 1:31 PM
Why aren't Jews allowed to visit their holy places? just wondering Sunday, Oct. 01, 2006 at 2:21 PM
Gee... I don't know, Manerd. Maybe 'cause they deficate all over? Sunday, Oct. 01, 2006 at 2:41 PM
hey hows it going there TW hex Sunday, Oct. 01, 2006 at 3:19 PM
anti-Jew or anti- zionist? Hmmmmmm Sunday, Oct. 01, 2006 at 3:33 PM
"Zionists don't mind killing Jews or anyone else." TW Sunday, Oct. 01, 2006 at 4:31 PM
no kidding those bastards Sunday, Oct. 01, 2006 at 4:48 PM
Wel, there's this for starters Sunday, Oct. 01, 2006 at 5:47 PM
ghosts and stuff Dod Tamat Sunday, Oct. 01, 2006 at 5:55 PM
Agents, enablers and anti-Semites Sunday, Oct. 01, 2006 at 6:01 PM
No one won the contest Becky Johnson Sunday, Oct. 01, 2006 at 6:08 PM
TW's conundrum Becky Johnson Sunday, Oct. 01, 2006 at 6:31 PM
straw - it's what's for dinner hex Sunday, Oct. 01, 2006 at 6:41 PM
easy answers hex Sunday, Oct. 01, 2006 at 8:04 PM
What's left to say Well, Tee Wdumbya Sunday, Oct. 01, 2006 at 8:08 PM
No wonder he gets along so well with Truth Warper hexi-gone Sunday, Oct. 01, 2006 at 8:30 PM
"we the progressive" HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAA TW Sunday, Oct. 01, 2006 at 8:35 PM
Your verbal diarrhea is just for naught someone sane Sunday, Oct. 01, 2006 at 8:41 PM
More zionist strawman games. They lie because they have to TW Sunday, Oct. 01, 2006 at 8:45 PM
{'We' the "Zionists" posting here} hex Sunday, Oct. 01, 2006 at 8:45 PM
You've pegged the wrong person no, hexantisemite Sunday, Oct. 01, 2006 at 9:28 PM
Dawn breaks like a bull through the hall Monday, Oct. 02, 2006 at 1:56 AM
More Al qaeda in Israel Monday, Oct. 02, 2006 at 2:08 AM
global al-Qaeda network al-CIAduh attacks Monday, Oct. 02, 2006 at 2:15 AM
another quick responce from Sheepdog w/luv Monday, Oct. 02, 2006 at 2:26 AM
addendum... Sheepdog Monday, Oct. 02, 2006 at 2:40 AM
Give me a quote I'll deconstruct it for you Monday, Oct. 02, 2006 at 2:40 AM
From Tia with thinly veiled mockery and scorn Monday, Oct. 02, 2006 at 2:40 AM
i would have guessed you'd be thrilled by the prospect of more dead Jews Monday, Oct. 02, 2006 at 2:49 AM
damned right they didn't yea Monday, Oct. 02, 2006 at 3:29 AM
On chemtrails, witless barbs and barbless wits Monday, Oct. 02, 2006 at 3:39 AM
hey that's right yukles Monday, Oct. 02, 2006 at 3:42 AM
This is all a dream we dreamed one afternoon long ago Monday, Oct. 02, 2006 at 3:54 AM
tell me about it I know... Monday, Oct. 02, 2006 at 4:11 AM
Why I am here Monday, Oct. 02, 2006 at 4:23 AM
They KNOW because they ARE ALQAIDA. hex Monday, Oct. 02, 2006 at 5:04 AM
LaTuff should be rejected completely Becky Johnson Monday, Oct. 02, 2006 at 5:24 AM
Note to John K Becky Johnson Monday, Oct. 02, 2006 at 5:28 AM
israel is a mad animal with, like - rabies Monday, Oct. 02, 2006 at 5:39 AM
"should be rejected completely" Hex Monday, Oct. 02, 2006 at 6:22 AM
nonsense Sheepdog Monday, Oct. 02, 2006 at 6:36 AM
[ fear not the sword of Sheepdog] Sheepdog Monday, Oct. 02, 2006 at 6:42 AM
right for his audience gehrig Monday, Oct. 02, 2006 at 7:01 AM
well I'm dead now hex Monday, Oct. 02, 2006 at 7:05 AM
babbling doen't helo your case Sheepdog Monday, Oct. 02, 2006 at 7:15 AM
Another stooopid comment Monday, Oct. 02, 2006 at 7:33 AM
Gaza or what? That's occupied Palestine Monday, Oct. 02, 2006 at 7:49 AM
There has never been "Palestine" Monday, Oct. 02, 2006 at 7:53 AM
you're mistaken again Sheepdog Monday, Oct. 02, 2006 at 9:48 AM
From Ziff: The Rape of Palestine 1938 written 1938 Monday, Oct. 02, 2006 at 10:07 AM
this uebermensch shepes hee hee. Damn Monday, Oct. 02, 2006 at 1:49 PM
"Could he get more" hex Monday, Oct. 02, 2006 at 2:01 PM
Glad you're here hex Matt Fitt Monday, Oct. 02, 2006 at 2:10 PM
You're dismissed hexi-gone Monday, Oct. 02, 2006 at 2:18 PM
More is better Becky Johnson Monday, Oct. 02, 2006 at 2:19 PM
That appears on P.S. Monday, Oct. 02, 2006 at 2:26 PM
One last thing Matt Monday, Oct. 02, 2006 at 2:28 PM
my opposition here Sheepdog Monday, Oct. 02, 2006 at 2:31 PM
Oh PUKE! Not Ziff again TW Monday, Oct. 02, 2006 at 2:36 PM
Fit is a nit Matt is a dick Monday, Oct. 02, 2006 at 2:36 PM
she can dance a cajun rhythm jump like a wilys in four wheel drive Monday, Oct. 02, 2006 at 2:41 PM
hey Matt hex Monday, Oct. 02, 2006 at 2:49 PM
Becky: "While I don't self-identify as a Zionist..." TW Monday, Oct. 02, 2006 at 2:54 PM
look at the puppets jumping hex Monday, Oct. 02, 2006 at 3:09 PM
TW: Much Heat/ Little Light Becky Johnson Monday, Oct. 02, 2006 at 3:13 PM
durring the scripted fight Sheepdog sez glad you noticed Monday, Oct. 02, 2006 at 3:20 PM
Editorial "requests" to cease "spamming"? just wondering Monday, Oct. 02, 2006 at 3:20 PM
It's called 'chutzpah' TW Monday, Oct. 02, 2006 at 3:27 PM
my sour grapes detector just went off :) hex Monday, Oct. 02, 2006 at 3:38 PM
And MORE chutzpah!!!!! TW Monday, Oct. 02, 2006 at 3:45 PM
Trolls call other people "trolls" Becky Johnson Monday, Oct. 02, 2006 at 3:53 PM
I think it was you, Hex... TW Monday, Oct. 02, 2006 at 3:56 PM
Hey, Hex TW Monday, Oct. 02, 2006 at 3:58 PM
"why are you ? " since you asked... Monday, Oct. 02, 2006 at 3:59 PM
proving my point Sheepdog Monday, Oct. 02, 2006 at 4:20 PM
this is a parrot Sheepdog Monday, Oct. 02, 2006 at 4:41 PM
demands and consequences - how humble :) hex Monday, Oct. 02, 2006 at 4:45 PM
Talk about parrots pot/kettle/black Monday, Oct. 02, 2006 at 4:50 PM
too many ankle biting windows opened hex Monday, Oct. 02, 2006 at 4:58 PM
your sources /my sources Sheepdog Monday, Oct. 02, 2006 at 5:02 PM
"The late Menahem Begin..." TW Monday, Oct. 02, 2006 at 8:04 PM
Begin wasn't of the what=will-TWs-say mentality He had national pride Monday, Oct. 02, 2006 at 8:21 PM
Figures Lie and Liars Figure Becky Johnson Monday, Oct. 02, 2006 at 9:08 PM
HEX's poison pen at work! Becky Johnson Monday, Oct. 02, 2006 at 9:20 PM
I wonder what color her strap-on appendage is.. hex Tuesday, Oct. 03, 2006 at 2:11 AM
riding tac & blisters from a previous post Tuesday, Oct. 03, 2006 at 5:48 AM
anti-Zionists vs Zionists the differences Tuesday, Oct. 03, 2006 at 7:51 AM
not quite hex Tuesday, Oct. 03, 2006 at 8:25 AM
A room of your own in Little Rock Tuesday, Oct. 03, 2006 at 8:48 AM
The deviance runs deep Tuesday, Oct. 03, 2006 at 9:00 AM
"re: sheepdog's hang-ups " shucks Tuesday, Oct. 03, 2006 at 9:28 AM
Gone ludicrous hexi-gone Tuesday, Oct. 03, 2006 at 10:49 AM
well, you brought it up repost for mole Tuesday, Oct. 03, 2006 at 11:16 AM
study harder hex Tuesday, Oct. 03, 2006 at 11:24 AM
Yup, caught the zionist trash puking another whopper. What a shock (*yawn*) TW Tuesday, Oct. 03, 2006 at 2:22 PM

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