ISRAELIS, UNITE! IT'S TIME FOR CHANGE!
by Boris Celser
"Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?"
Who will guard the guards?
(From "Satires of Juvenal")
"... As concerns an end to settlements and the release of prisoners, our stance is clear. It will prompt us to move forward in the road map framework to attain a permanent accord in order to reach the 1967 borders including a solution to the problems of Jerusalem, the refugees, and the settlements..."
-- Excerpted from Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas's statement at the Sharm e-Sheikh summit, Jerusalem Post, February 8, 2005.
In early 2004, I published an article called "The Root Cause" (see http://www.think-israel.org/celser.rootcause.html). It was a criticism of the present system of government in Israel based on comparisons, historical facts, and my own perceptions. It called for a Constitution and a redesign of its governmental structure. It provided the rationale as to why Israel would be better off with an American-style system, with a President with executive powers elected by the people and a Congress whose members would represent Congressional districts and be elected directly by their constituents. It would lead to checks and balances and stop undemocratic decisions from being made in secrecy and under pressure.
The four benefits to Israel would be:
Strengthening of Israeli democratic institutions;
Enhancing the independence of the State;
Improving the well being of the people of Israel;
Protecting the nation's leaders from unfair and hostile pressure.
This new article provides an overview of the latest (mis) adventures of Israel's leaders, followed by new ideas on how to start the pursuit of the type of government proposed in "The Root Cause". It offers a challenge to Israel's Intelligentsia, and an innovative way to handle international pressure by proving to the misinformed world citizens why a peaceful solution is unlikely, and who is at fault
The Latest Follies, While People Die
The road map fiasco, which flips between being poised in a holding pattern while we wait for a "peace partner" to emerge, and being put in spin by a new 'peace initiative" has been followed by the projected disengagement farce - the ethnic cleansing of Jews from areas where they were forcibly expelled by Arabs starting in the 1920s.
Under the allegation that a political vacuum should not occur, the Sharon government will "vacuum clean" thousands of Jews from their homes, "sucking" their "aspirations", "sucking up" to the Americans, treating the electorate as "suckers", and doing on behalf of the Arabs what their armies could not do.
In the meantime, the world applauds.
While risking their lives serving in the IDF, some are unceremoniously told by their own government to abandon their houses and communities. It is a very interesting concept to reflect upon. Is it Sharon's fault? Yes and no. The main fault lies with the archaic Israeli system of democratic government, something that would be unacceptable to any other democracy. However, in Israel, such a monster is allowed to continue and fester. It can - and often does - turns any leader into a bulldozer. Even the mild Ehud Barak recklessly ran from from Lebanon in the middle of the night, and tried hard to give the farm away to Arafat at Camp David.
Furthermore, these bulldozers can be - and are - remote-controlled from overseas.
The disengagement policy means more than a concession to terror. It represents, beyond any reasonable doubt, the almost certainty that the next generation of Israelis will be faced with the unenviable task of fighting relentless terrorists everywhere on the land, in order to hold on to whatever is left of it, while the world continues to appease their Arab enemies.
This is the best case option. Any other scenario is downhill all the way. Thanks to proportional representation, everything the Jews fought for over a century is being destroyed in less than a decade. Furthermore, besides expelling the Jews from Gaza, Judea, and Samaria, this government, through these actions, legitimizes the massacres of Jews by Arabs from these very same places some 80 years ago. It validates the "wisdom" of those actions. It is a truism that an American administration - whenever it is in trouble with some failed action or policy - pushes on Israel for a quick and cheap foreign policy victory. Currently, it seems that in the near future, America will declare victory in Iraq and leave in defeat. America's leaders must have some "success" to show to the voters, and if they can't do it militarily, well, there is always Israel.
Perhaps USA and Britain don't want to destroy Israel but their actions will certainly make her more vulnerable. In addition, both put unrelenting pressure on Sharon to make concessions, which may be suicidal.
Moral equivalency suits almost everyone fine. The selection of Abbas as the PA President in anything but free elections represents the start of a whole series of new attempts to destroy Israel over time. Physical terror will always be there, side by side with new strategies designed to weaken the nation with support from abroad. The amount of power the Prime Minister holds makes him a puppeteer, with every citizen a puppet. However, it also makes him vulnerable to external pressure. Whoever controls the PM controls Israel. So it is easy to guess who the real master puppeteers are.
Sharon not only breaks promises, refuses to abide by his party's vote on how to proceed or not with disengagement, but also seems to enjoy a macabre dance of building and rebuilding coalitions in order to keep power. And damn the nation! We hear about how Likud rebels may torpedo his initiatives, but they never actually do so. Moderately applied behavioral modification techniques including reward and punishment suffice to turn them from renegades into well-behaved "rebels". The PM, by waving money for pet projects, is able to buy support from anti-disengagement religious parties. What a way of running a country and "representing" the citizens! Voting in support of a certain position has become meaningless. It reminds me of an election in military-run Uruguay some three decades ago. The generals lost, but didn't honor the will of the people. They claimed that the citizens had made the wrong choice.
As Sharon keeps shuffling his cabinet in order to keep power, has anyone considered whether some ministers are even remotely qualified for their jobs, based on competence?
Another bizarre method of control is to use Deputy PM Ehud Olmert as a springboard to measure the level of support for new initiatives. This also has the benefit of giving Sharon plausible deniability. Nobody really knows what is going on, so newspapers publish one thing today, quoting a government source, and a retraction tomorrow, quoting another. Speculations are rampant in the press. The level of secrecy and paranoia is astounding, at least for people who live outside Israel and are not used to this form of governance. The amount of energy wasted on party infighting is stupefying. Self-preservation, not real long-term strategies, rules the day. Everybody looks out for number one.
"Twilight Zone", I salute thee.
Of course, there is no point relying on highly regarded foreign intellectuals, either. After statements by Tutu, Saramago, Peres and others, I'm starting to believe there must be an IQ ceiling below which one can be considered for the Nobel Peace and Literature Prizes. Yes, Shimon Peres is Israeli, but he's also the darling of every anti-Semite worldwide. The eternal Peres, Co-Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, is now Double Deputy Prime Minister, Co-Vice Prime Minister, Associate Prime Minister. He is already the country's de facto Foreign Minister, although officially this time the title was not bestowed upon him. The nation was at a standstill, as the Knesset busied itself trying to change the Basic Law in order to accommodate his demands for power once again. His "modesty", given his present demands, goes hand in hand with his denial to having campaigned for the Nobel Peace Prize. As a perennial second place finish, he was not even able to win it on his own. Most winners have managed to do so, but not he.
Not too long ago, it was widely reported that Peres and Sharon agreed, at a conversation, that they are the only ones capable and responsible for solving the Israeli-Palestinian problem. Of course there can not be anyone else. The system hardly allows for it. (That's what I call the Israeli people's nakba!) Taking this at face value, despite the fact that Olmert is the Likud deputy PM, this should mean Olmert should not be the one taking over the reins of power in case something happens to Sharon. After all, the interests of the nation should come before the interests of any party. Therefore, according to Peres and Sharon, Olmert should bow out and allow Peres to be the PM in case of need. If the reader is confused, so am I.
The authorization given to the IDF to crack down after the recent suicide bombing at a Gaza crossing was at once put on hold after the new Security Cabinet convened. The decision to cut security ties with the PA was immediately reversed. Welcome back, Shimon Peres. What a way of running a country, in such a "consistent" way! In comparison to Peres, Olmert must be telling himself: "Ich bin ein beginner"! Rightly so!
Peres has repeatedly said he wants Israel to be a socialist state. Jewish values are secondary, if not irrelevant. The fact that he has been systematically defeated in all elections is of no consequence to him. When Israel is no more, he won't be the one living with the consequences of his actions.
The world pretends to love him, and he believes it.
In a recent interview with the Jerusalem Post, Ra'anan Gissin, the prime minister's spokesman, stated that when Sharon looks right and left, he doesn't see any real candidates to replace him. Is anyone really surprised? The system is so undemocratic, the way of choosing the candidates internally so flawed, that honest, decent, and bright people are always marginalized, and likely to move on to better things in private life. Consequently, Israel is left with Peres and Sharon, and in the likely future, once again Barak versus Bibi, Bibi versus Barak, or something similar for the next two decades. This is all the next generation has to look forward to. Eventually, it may rip the fabric of the country apart, because the lack of alternatives and flexibility in the present political system already results in extreme positions, unheard of in any other democracy, taken not just by politicians but also by the Israeli media and other intellectuals.
The end result is the polarization of the society to such a point that any discharge of pent up emotions and frustrations is veered to the destructive, not to the constructive. Why? Because, although in principle the country is democratic, her citizens, who keep well informed but don't really choose their leaders, are unable to do much in practice. At least not in a polite, 'civilized' fashion.
They can debate, they can create organizations such as Women in Green, Women in Black, and many others, but even those always have an uphill battle in their hands, with no real representatives in the Knesset to approach for support. Politicians, whether in power or in opposition, not only treat voters as pesky people, but also subject them to untoward daily dangers.
Furthermore, the Prime minister acts as if there is a secret covenant between God and any Prime Minister of Israel, in which the latter is given deed to the (holy) land, to dispose of it as he sees fit.
Has anyone ever seen George Bush or Colin Powell standing next to Canadian PM Paul Martin, British PM Tony Blair, French President Jacques Chirac, or other leaders, and reminding the media and the public that Canada, the UK, and France are democracies? I haven't. How come they often do just that with Israeli leaders? Who are they trying to educate or fool? The world? The Israelis? Readers can draw their own conclusions. I've drawn my own when I thought of puppets and puppeteers. The American administration is trying to persuade everyone that any PM has a democratic mandate from the people to make whatever concessions the world wants. Did the Israelis give America such a mandate?
Colin Powell, Kofi Anan, and most leaders in Europe received Yossi Beilin, a nobody, whose notoriety was achieved through mischief. How much more proof of the world's intentions and lack of respect towards Israel and her leaders do Israelis need?
A system of government that curtails certain rights of its citizens, while allowing its own legitimacy to be ridiculed by the likes of Yossi Beilin and his foreign partners, is not something that deserves to be preserved. A system of government that allows its leaders to trifle with the lives of the citizenry and lead them in directions they always reject when given the opportunity is not democratic.
This week in Jerusalem, Condi Rice kept repeating that Israel is a democracy. She is not opposed to Israel releasing thousands of Palestinian prisoners, as long as the PA arrests those who killed three Americans in Gaza. The Palestinian prisoners should each be given a loaded gun and told to line up. If Sharon and Peres can safely walk along the line without being shot and killed, then it's fine to release them. Furthermore, Israel's ambassador to the US has just stated that in his view "anything that will postpone, or interfere, with the timetable or orderly manner of carrying out disengagement would not be viewed favorably in Washington.. That's Democracy 101, courtesy of the State Department. Rice keeps adding insult to injury. Israelis had better follow Reagan's advice: don't inhale.
Bush, Cheney, and Powell are millionaires. The latter reputedly made US30M writing a book about the first Iraqi war. Rice is not so rich. Since the second Iraqi war was hardly a success, her chance to become really wealthy lies in solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict no matter what. Her book is likely to come out in 2009. Prominent and affluent American Jews have recently written to Bush, asking him to solve the conflict. So did some prominent Soviet Jews around 1950, pleading to Stalin to deport all Jews to "settlements" in the east, for their own protection.
Jerusalem has already been offered, traded, given, returned, and shared so many times lately that if the city were female, she would be considered a lady of highly dubious repute.
If the attack against Israel by the State Department continues unimpeded, it is possible that no Holocaust will occur. Israel, small and demoralized, might simply become a part of the US, in the form of a territory or commonwealth, like Guam, American Samoa, or Puerto Rico. Safe but chained to the master, like a pet. Does North Korea know something we don't as far as defending her interests?
In the meantime, Israel's Mickey Mouse President (my opinion of the office, not of the man), suggests the set up of a Diaspora Parliament. As if the present system of government were not bad enough as it is. Does Israel need another loophole for even more US and EU interference? Others have even suggested that Diaspora Jews be given the right to vote in the Israeli elections. As if we were up to speed on all issues besides terrorism, such as education, transportation, law and order, economic policies, and many others. Perhaps these are not important, after all. Everything is proposed - except system change in any meaningful way.
Israel's Supreme Court is the most supreme in existence. The fence's construction continues to be subject to delays in spite of the always-present danger of attacks and suicide bombers. The Court claims its construction disrupts the lives of Palestinians. Contrariwise, forcefully evacuating Jews from Gaza is not considered disruptive. Since there is no Constitution in Israel, uniformity in behavior and actions does not apply. Without constitutional brakes, the Attorney General can make his own rules.
Are Israelis masochists, do they suffer on purpose? No, they are an abused lot. Even the Iraqis will have a new Constitution soon.
So many have speculated so much about Sharon changing his positions abruptly. Detectives say that the most logical explanation is generally the right one. Can there be two? Probably. First, there is external pressure. The US has tightened the noose since Oslo. Netanyahu got squeezed. So did Barak. All Prime Ministers have so much power, think they know it all, and act so independently, that they become sitting ducks for manipulation from abroad. The US, the EU, and the Arabs want Israel out, and a Palestinian state in.
This is much easier to accomplish when one only has to deal with one man, as oppose to squeezing a whole government. No Israeli PM is brave enough to call this bluff, even though Israel could on her own wreak havoc in the area, if it suited her. Instead, they go after their fellow citizens, who are now called settlers because the previous Jews were expelled or killed. The "quasi" settlers of Sderot may be destined to the same fate for daring to "settle" so close to the border, since Sharon has said that disengagement will proceed no matter what. Settlers and "quasi" settlers are not important, and must resign themselves to being attacked by the Palestinians, the international community, and their own government. When Sderot residents become the "official settlers", the next door community will take their place as "quasi" settlers. Never mind that it is not going to work. In the future, others will pick up the pieces.
In his book The Secret History of the Iraq War, page 328, Yossef Bodansky writes:
"Israel's national security adviser, Efraim Halevi, defined the Road Map process as an 'experiment fraught with dangers to Israel', but the Americans would not listen. Instead, senior Israeli officials complained, Rice devoted her meetings with Sharon and key Israeli ministers to advocating a return to a national unity government in which the dovish Shimon Peres would serve as foreign minister. Rice's proposals were a flagrant intervention into Israel's internal affairs..."
Second, there is also the strong possibility that Sharon is being blackmailed because of his family's legal troubles. If so, this is icing on the cake. Peres and Left control the Judiary in Israel, which could embarrass Sharon. Operationally, the Left favors Arabs over Jews. Peres is the darling of the Americans and Europeans.
In his book Preachers of Hate, author Kenneth Timmerman presents several passages on Shimon Peres, including the involvement of the Peres Center for Peace in dubious business dealings with the Palestinian Authority (page 176) and in presenting cash awards to Terje Roed-Larsen, the anti-Israel former UN representative in Jerusalem (page 247). Is the US so powerful that Peres and the Labor Party are just innocent pawns thrown into the game?
When one considers the above two paragraphs, one is entitled to ask: is Sharon between a (US) rock and a (Labor Party) hard place? If even one of the two possibilities were correct, it would make Sharon and Peres criminals.
Israel's governments have spent the years since Oslo frittering the time on a fantasy of peace, while ignoring some extremely serious problems. For example, it has waited too long on Iran. It watched while the Americans retreated from Lebanon in the 1980s after the Iranian-sponsored suicide bombings against the US embassy and the marines' barracks. She then watched when, in the 1990s, the Iranians followed suit in Argentina, destroying a community center and a consulate. She did nothing major to thwart Iranian help to Hizballah over the years. In the 2000s the answer to the Iranian threat seems to be unilateral disengagement, so that Hizbullah can expand to the south. As far as the nuclear threat goes, Israel in this case is the world's tsunami warning system. Will she use the option of preventing the tsunami from happening in the first place?
Unfortunately, the Israel of my younger days does not exist anymore. People who, although helped by the Cold War, knew better than anyone else how to deal with their Arab neighbors led that Israel. They knew their enemies' minds. An Arab leader like Nasser, for example, would boast how he would destroy Israel. Those Israelis knew that if Nasser had the means to do so, then it would get done, and they were always several steps ahead of him. Failure had a price. Incompetence an even higher one. Today, this no longer holds true. It has become far more comfortable for the post-Cold War Israeli leadership to defer critical decisions to the US and to a large extent the international community. Suddenly they no longer understand their enemies' motives and motivations. Apparently the US knows better, even though hardly a day goes by when this is not proven false. The system is so sick that the ability to learn from past mistakes is no longer there. Furthermore, the mistakes are not even recognized. After all, these were so grave that not even an "eternal" politician could survive an admission of guilt. It is far easier, therefore, to persist than to rectify. Or to take a short leave of absence, make money abroad, and then return for another kick at the cat.
And that's why the system of government must change. It stinks; it is no longer breathable. It's not funny anymore. It has become a zoo. No wonder the anti-Semites are on the loose. They smell blood.
Israeli leaders, you have systematically failed to protect from danger the citizens who elected you. You were obliged to do it to the best of your abilities, but you have not done so. You have sold out to other interests. You could not provide to your people in land what El-Al offers daily to their customers in the air. Safety! Your limitations have completely offset the enormous resources at your disposal. When all is said and done, the country will be smaller and the present military advantage versus the neighboring states reduced to parity at best.
You have also allowed those who did so much harm to us barely half a century ago, the Europeans, to turn around and falsely accuse you of doing the very same to others, the Arabs, who, aligning themselves with the former and with their help, are bent to destroy your country once and for all, in a vicious circle of madness. They need to told that Israel is not a laboratory for their experiments.
And with few exceptions, the free Israeli media, whether from the right, left, or center, together with institutions of higher learning, have also let the people down. As so-called "experts" and intellectuals, they have largely failed to point the way to constructive change. They have let society down.
Can Israel Do Better?
Professor Paul Eidelberg, President of the Foundation for Constitutional Democracy, has spelled out the requirements for a better system of government for Israel (http://netzahyisrael.org/govt_in_exile.htm). The main purpose of the present article, in support of these long-term goals, is to emphasize short-term actions that must be pursued at once, before it is too late; provide some ideas on how to accomplish them; and suggest a way to engage the world, while the system is revamped.
It may be useful to point out three of the most common concerns raised by people who are aware of this proposal in support of an American-style government system in Israel. Those include a few Israeli journalists and academicians.
1) Israel can change the system, but it still needs a strongman in power to make the life and death critical decisions.
Answer: A large part of "The Root Cause" article is dedicated to putting this argument to rest. Please see: http://www.think-israel.org/celser.rootcause.html
2) Just like in the US, where the same Congressmen are always reelected, the same thing will happen in Israel, if she is divided into Congressional districts.
Answer: Very doubtful. Israel is a tiny country, the people well informed, and are all facing the very same threat to their existence. Because the country is so small, it is not like comparing a district in Florida with a district in Iowa. Constituents in a California district do not share the exactly same issues and dangers with an Alaska constituency. There is no safe place to hide. Besides, in order to get it right, why not have term limits?
3) The same eternal politicians would still be elected, since some districts will always be strongholds of certain parties (this assumes no term limits).
Answer: I disagree. Let us hypothetically assume the new system is in place. Let us also assume, for example, that East Haifa is a Labor stronghold and that Shimon Peres is running for Labor in East Haifa. Peres should win, since East Haifa always votes Labor. Fair enough, but what gives? What gives is a beautiful thing called primaries, where other Laborites with new ideas are free to challenge Peres for the nomination, way before Peres faces the voters in the general election. Peres will have to contend with new ideas and new blood to even win the right to be a contender in the finals.
It has been reported that Knesset Members work fewer days per week than their counterparts in other countries. Furthermore, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin said he does not believe MKs work as hard as they could during the days when they do work. To this I would add that on the weekends or during their vacations they don't go home to address their constituents, since the latter do not exist.
Engaging the Intelligentsia to Change the System
Permanently changing Israel's system of government is a complex task. I estimate it can take anywhere from three to four years. The details are beyond the scope of this article, and beyond the author's expertise. At a minimum I envisage a pro-change party in power, with a PM who will delegate the legal and political issues to experts. These individuals would draft a Constitution. Getting agreement on what to propose would take time. If all goes well, it could be submitted to the people for approval via a referendum, and, if passed, the implementation part could start, new parties formed, districts created, and much more. Here, I just want to kick start things.
It is interesting to note the many interviews conducted with several would-be Prime Ministers, like the recent one with Effi Eitan, National Religious Party leader, at the Jerusalem Post. The questions were pertinent, however, the answers always focused on the man in charge, the PM. If Sharon's policies are at best dubious, so were Barak's. Focusing only on the man of the hour will not save Israel. It is the existing system that allows leaders to behave the way they do, and for as long as they possibly can. When he was the Secretary General of East Germany's Communist Party, Walter Ulbricht stated to unhappy factory workers that they, as citizens of the dictatorship of the proletariat, could not go on strike, because they would be striking against themselves. Left unsaid were the consequences of striking. It is the same general idea.
One of the most recurring themes of late is the tendency of some Israeli journalists and commentators to state that in spite of the current wave of terrorist attacks and suicide bombings the country's continuing existence is not threatened. Indeed! There are, of course, many cities in the world where the level of violence and the death toll are a lot worse than in Israel. Driving in some of these towns is more dangerous than driving in Gaza or the West Bank. Their citizens are scared. However, those countries are not under an existential threat. Accepting terrorism and suicide bombings as a fact of life must be halted, no matter what! It is another trap set up to destroy Israel through suicidal concessions! A very low cost and low risk strategy supported by the Arab countries. The existential threat can come in many flavors besides terrorism or defeat in a war. For instance, in the form of a bi-national state, something the world at large is this close to proposing, or the surrender of the Temple Mount by the government, which is tantamount to recognizing that the Jews have no right to be on the land of Israel, or going forward with the creation of a terrorist state. In Israel's case, it is necessary to alter the mindset of the media regarding the above. What is happening is very, very serious, with unique psychological, political and military repercussions that go way beyond terrorist attacks. Therefore, we must help the local media help themselves.
It is understandable that the people of Israel try to rationalize the existential threat. Nobody likes to feel rejected, marginalized, and attacked. One wonders if one is really so bad. The world thinks so, and applies just enough pressure to ensure the gradual capitulation of the nation through more and more dangerous concessions. The politicians ensure the society is split and undermined. The local media pick up on these trends, but, being Israelis, they are subject to the same denial of reality affecting the average citizen. There are a few exceptions, those that understand the long-term tragic consequences. Those that understand the psychology, fanaticism, and hate of the enemy, and what the world at large is up to in its collective "wisdom". Their insights are badly needed to counter the long-term denial of the Israelis.
One example is all that is necessary to demonstrate the horror stories and blind nonsense being published in Israel. At a time when some Muslims and non-Muslims, including journalists and academicians in many Western countries write articles or make speeches calling for the killing of Israelis and Jews everywhere, leading in many cases to attacks, prosecution, apologies, and even deportation and prison, an interesting article was published by the Jerusalem Post in late 2004. In it the columnist, a political scientist professor at an Israeli university, recommends that Israel release Barghouti, a man serving a life sentence for multiple murders, under the hypothesis that he could be "the" Palestinian leader to make peace with Israel. What message does it send to law enforcement authorities abroad that are fighting terrorism and incitement? What message does it send to all terrorists in the area?
Others have suggested that Israel destroy her nuclear weapons as a goodwill gesture to the Iranians and the Arab world. What are Israelis supposed to make out of it? Where and who can they turn to for sanity? It is an important question, with so many Israeli intellectuals hating themselves for being Jewish and using their positions to undermine the existence of the state. Jewish Israeli university professors openly call for foreigners to boycott and divest from Israel, while having no problems collecting their salaries from the government, at taxpayers' expense. This type of existential hate is virtually impossible to find anywhere else.
What will this bright professor suggest next? A marriage between Chemical Ali and Dr. Germ in order to ensure there is a next generation of scientists for a peaceful future Iraqi WMD program?
Although it is hard for a people to come to terms with the facts that they are under the gun and almost alone, there is a bright side that needs to be remembered. The "Palestinians" have been the darlings of the world for quite some time. In spite of all the attention and the phenomenal amounts of money and resources thrown at them, by and large they all live in misery anywhere in the region other than in Israel proper. Therefore, before falling into the trap and start feeling guilty, Israelis must be aware that the grass is a lot greener between the sea and the river. Who made it green, and who wants to take it all away and why? Still feeling guilty, anyone? Only those who hate themselves?
Lately there has been a plethora of articles written by columnists, political analysts, free-lance writers, and political science professors, tentatively hinting that some changes in the form of government are necessary. Unfortunately, the changes suggested are generally mild. Furthermore, articles are written, read, and quickly forgotten. The need to publish or perish, the pressure of meeting deadlines, and the apparent inability of these intellectuals to work together instead of competing with each other undermine their good intentions. Therefore, we must help these individuals to pool their resources and collaborate.
The Province of Quebec: A Precedent to Consider
The province of Quebec, in Canada, is largely French, with an English-speaking minority. In 1968, a Quebec provincial party, the "Parti Quebecois", was founded. It is committed to the independence of Quebec from Canada. It took power on several occasions, although today it seats in opposition. Since 1976, when it was first elected, it held two referenda, in 1980 and 1995, asking the population for permission to negotiate sovereignty for Quebec with the Canadian federal government. It lost on both occasions, the last time by less than 1%, thanks to the Montreal vote. It may succeed and secede someday, but it did not try to use its general elections' victories as a mandate for outright disengagement from Canada.
In 1993 a national party, entirely from Quebec, was also founded. It is called the "Bloc Quebecois". It is a federal political party in Canada that is primarily devoted to promoting sovereignty for the province of Quebec. It also holds the goals of "defending the interests of all Quebecers in Ottawa". Ideologically, members of the BQ come from across the political spectrum, united by a belief in Quebec independence. It works hand in hand with its sister provincial party. Of course, this federal party can only field candidates in Quebec, the second most populous province, after Ontario. Nevertheless, in 1993, it won so many Quebec seats in that year's federal election that it became the official opposition to the Liberals in Parliament. It seems totally incoherent; the official opposition's main agenda was to break up Canada. Although in 2005 the BQ is no longer the largest opposition party, it remains a force to be reckoned with. It has enormous popular support, still winning the majority of Quebec ridings (Congressional districts).
So what? After all, Quebec, like Canada, is already divided into ridings, so things are much easier there! What has it got to do with Israel? A lot, actually! What matters is not the end goal of Quebec politics, but the means to achieve this end. The BQ is a bright organization. Neither its members in Ottawa nor others behind the scene are all "professional" politicians. They are a diversified lot. Furthermore, they were able to enlist among their active supporters those who together provide them with a highly desired set of critical skills to ensure the BQ can continue to make a difference. Lawyers, journalists, academicians, businessmen, public relation specialists, and many others devotedly support the overall organization. Whether one agrees with their aims or not, they have been able to win important political and economic victories for Quebec from the federal government. They pool their resources, because they know no single individual has the means or the skills to go it alone. They are good. They are very good.
If Quebec becomes independent, the Bloc Quebecois will cease to exist, and its members will join new federal Quebec parties according to their own political views.
Treating the Cause, Not Just the Symptoms
The patient, Israel, is getting progressively weaker. It is no longer enough to keep fighting the symptoms as they occur. This doesn't mean that we should all drop what we're doing because it is wrong. It is not wrong, but it is not enough. One must also deal with the cause before it is too late. This section shows how to do it, and who should lead the effort.
The following is a series of ideas to get the ball rolling, in no special order. It is not an exhaustive list. It is designed to stimulate those reading this article to get together with friends, and do additional brainstorming. The intent would be to have some strong momentum going forward in order to change the system. Considering the people who are concerned with Israel's future as a network, ideas can flow freely and be shared by all.
No one is an expert in every area. What is needed at the very beginning is a core group of activists in favor of changing the system of government, such as political scientists, media representatives, lawyers with constitutional expertise, businessmen, labor union representatives, social psychologists, marketers, PR specialists, as well as representatives of major groups (more about it below) in the country. Politicians in favor are also welcome. Everyone must build on each other's strengths. Public awareness as early as possible is of paramount importance, to ensure the movement's continuity, speed, and growth.
Let us add to the list prominent Israeli Americans, familiar with both systems of government. Let us also include people with strong leadership and organizational skills, motivators, and conflict-resolution specialists.
Nobody needs to stop earning a living. Some individuals could work on the project for a while, and pass their activities on to replacements having the same required skill set. Media representatives from the right, center, or left could push this agenda not only through isolated pieces, but also by holding Q&A over the Internet, inviting other group members or outside experts to join in, organizing discussion panels on TV, or starting a weekly pro-change newspaper and a web site. University professors could set up class debates bringing guests to expose their thoughts. Regardless of specific political views, the idea is collaboration, not competition. At the end of the day, when a new system of government is in place, they can then go their different political ways.
The present chaos is an opportunity. How hard can it be to score points against a government that wants Egyptian troops in Gaza, when that country doesn't even bother to send an ambassador to Israel? How difficult is it to expose the political scandals, the subterfuges to bypass democracy, the lies, and the external interference in the country's affairs? That's why the representatives of the major outside groups must also be brought in. They have a lot to offer. Take the settlers everywhere, for example. Whether in Gaza, Judea, Samaria, or Golan, their representatives would explain this platform to the residents of those areas, and bring guests to also do so. The settlers' ongoing dispute with the government would not need to be halted. Things would run in parallel.
What about inside Israel proper? A good starting place, in my view, would be to hold a few town hall meetings. I am convinced that the good and hard working citizens of Sderot and surrounding towns would be very interested in listening to these proposals, for reasons easy to understand. They need to be treated as constituents as much as anyone else, just like the settlers do. The Sderot mayor will then exchange views with other mayors. The residents will share what they've learned with friends and relatives in other parts of Israel. In this case, the fact that the country is small is beneficial. It's as productive for the long term as marching to Gaza
The Histadrut and other labor organizations can also play an important role in bringing about political change. This is exactly what happened with the BQ in Quebec.
In the spirit and letter of the ideas presented so far, an important milestone would take place when Yesha councils start working together with opposing organizations only for system change. Wouldn't it make the nightly news? What about the "Women in Green" working hand in hand with the "Women in Black"? Media representatives and scholars should join in, understanding that the proposed outcome is beneficial to all.
Certainly a political party within the existing system could be formed, along the lines of the "Bloc Quebecois", to impart change from within. It would run in the next elections. Its leaders may persuade existing Knesset Members to switch their allegiances. People like Natan Sharansky would be an asset, because he could also influence the large Russian community.
Average Israelis are undoubtedly well informed, and enjoy a good political argument. But like anywhere else, they must go to work, go to the university, go to the army, therefore, they can not be expected to pick up the slack and make it all happen on their own by the time they get home at night. Those who earn a living doing the sort of things described above must engage them first.
I won't discuss the issue of financing the project, other than saying that funding could come from several sources, both inside and outside Israel. There are many Jewish millionaires and a few billionaires as well. Very wealthy Americans from New York to Hollywood could contribute, and make it possible that a detailed information package be sent to each household in Israel and a lot more. Yossi Beilin did it with European Union money. Are we less bright than he is?
Given the turmoil surrounding disengagement and the accompanying Palestinian terror attacks and shelling, what a great opportunity to move forward quickly with this initiative. How would the present government and the eternal politicians react? Let us extrapolate a little bit. It has been said that some of the controversial steps Sharon has taken were the result of his fear that the Geneva Agreement might come to pass. If this was the case then the government might start listening to the people a little bit more, in order to defeat this pro-change movement. We should then take what we can get while continuing to press the case forward.
The Mother of All Conferences to Keep the World Busy
For system change as described above to be successful, it must occur in parallel with a major diplomatic initiative. Why? Because a dilemma is at hand. Until the new form of government is in place democratically, future positions on sensitive international issues affecting Israel can not be arbitrarily determined. Therefore, it is necessary for the last leader of the existing political system to circumvent the dangerous concessions and agreements in order to buy time, so that eventually the foreign policy of Israel can again originate in Israel. Why not do so in a legitimate and fair way? Here is an idea, maybe a silly one, but hardly the only one possibly available. It may initially only appeal to those who oppose the concessions of Oslo, the road map and its fourteen fairy-tale reservations, and those who understand that a Palestinian state west of the Jordan river free of Jews is a mistake of catastrophic proportions.
Three of the several irritants to many people including the author are: the number of lies thrown against Israel; the denial of the Jews' history by their enemies; and the total disregard by the world community in forcing an unjust solution by ignoring the first two points. That is why no fair solution to the problem can be found. There is no solid foundation, and no sincerity. The past does not count. So, the British want an international conference in February 2005 to move things forward, don't they? Israel should use the event to surprise the world by launching a new initiative, designed not only to repudiate the road map and gain time, but also as a way of actually either moving things forward, or once and for all proving that a solution is nowhere to be found for a very long time.
Israel should make an appearance in the UK simply to inform that she is prepared to participate, together with all Muslim states and any other countries with grievances against her, in a large conference to take place anywhere in the world, and with no time limits. Each and every issue can be brought up for discussion. Nothing is out of the question. The scope of the conference will be such that each delegation, including Israel's, will be represented not only by politicians and diplomats, but also by expert witnesses from anywhere, such as historians, archaeologists, theologians, who can be called to participate as each topic is addressed.
There will be two conditions, though.
The first condition is that the procedures take place with live TV coverage to the world. Everything will be openly discussed. Let us give the world not only a lesson in openness, but also full information. Since we all live on the same planet and since decades of secrecy did not solve anything, let us get the whole of humanity involved. Didn't the British PM say that the Israeli-Palestinian issue is the most important problem right now? We should all be given the chance to participate then, at least as observers. We should all be able to draw our conclusions without listening so much to the media and the spinners. It will be the most popular live event ever, and the most important. TV stations all over the world can poll their viewers whatever way they see fit. New TV channels are temporarily created especially for the Olympics. The same thing can happen again.
The second condition is that only one topic can be discussed at any given time. All issues brought up by the participants will be on the agenda. However, the order of discussion will be chronological; until an issue is resolved in a satisfactory manner by all parties, nothing else gets addressed. No exceptions, no breaking up into different groups. C-H-R-O-N-O-L-O-G-I-C-A-L.
Here are some, but not all, of the issues Israel should present chronologically. There are many others to be added, before the agenda can be completed.
We start at the beginning, in biblical times. Issues such as: the Palestinians being the descendants of the Cannaanites; Moses and Jesus being Muslim prophets; the Jews not being a people and a nation; whether or not the Temples existed on the Temple Mount, and anything else of relevance to all participants. Once again, all issues must be tackled in chronological order, and must be satisfactorily resolved before the next one is dealt with.
The Palestinians have also declared they are the descendants of the Philistines. Israel should, therefore, call a few etymology experts. Italian historians, who descend from the ancient Romans, may want to add their expertise as to whom the Romans had in mind when they came up with the word Palestine.
Since there was no Israel for 2,000 years, the treatment of Jews under European Christians and under the Muslims should also be on the agenda. In other words, let us understand why 20 centuries of anti-Semitism, explore the Koran's views on Jews, and whether they should be allowed to return to Mecca and Medina. As a matter of fact, Medina was a Jewish city once, well before it became a sacred city for Islam.
Eventually we arrive at modern history, where the real action takes place: the League of Nations' Mandate to the British for the creation of a homeland for the Jews; the British betrayal in stealing most of the land to create Jordan; giving the Golan to the French; the British role in stopping European Jews from escaping the Holocaust by going to Palestine and the tragic consequences; their stopping more European Jews after the war, placing them in British concentration camps in Cyprus. What has the "empire" got to say?
In tandem with the above is the role of the newly created Arab states prior to WWII, in particular Saudi Arabia, in opposing, with British connivance, the creation of any Jewish state whatsoever in the area; the Saudi's role in supporting Hitler's final solution; the role of the British-imposed mufti of Jerusalem in support of the Nazis.
Finally we arrive at the creation of Israel and investigate: the Arab invasion the day after; the expulsion of several hundred thousand Jews from the Arab countries; all the wars; what the Jordanians did to several Jewish holy sites in Jerusalem before 1967; the status of Gaza and the West Bank and their inhabitants prior to the 1967 war; the magical discovery of a "Palestinian" nation the day after.
Lastly, Israel can also talk about her treatment by the world community, the suicide bombings, the "Palestinians" genocide allegations, Jenin, the IDF allegedly using gas, uranium-coated bullets, stealing organs of dead Palestinian children, Holocaust denial, and more, much more.
So the British want to host a conference! Let's give them one! And let the chips fall where they may!
If the world doesn't accept it, the status quo will continue until the system of government is changed in Israel. Perhaps with the Palestinian leadership sent back to Tunisia. This conference is designed to allow for the participation, albeit in a passive form, of humanity, something that has never been done before.
It goes without saying that a televised conference equals the playing field as far as any PR effort is concerned. PR, something that Israel is terrible at, will actually not be necessary any more, because everything will be freely available. It saves Israel the trouble of trying to offset the enormous amount of Arab propaganda against her.
The policies of the Israeli leadership from Oslo on can be compared to a na´ve investor's, who buys a company stock based on hearsay, without doing the due diligence needed, and without even a stop-loss mark. When the stock takes a dive, he panics and does nothing. As things get worse, he still refuses to cut his losses in the vain hope that the company will recover and he will get his money back, even though better opportunities may be available elsewhere. As thousands of Israelis are being killed and maimed by terrorists with the help of her pseudo friends, Israel still refuses to cut its losses and fight back.
Bush's push for democracy in the area is unlikely to succeed, because he only has four years to go. In two years he will be considered a lame duck. Any Arab dictator with half a brain will pay lip service to his ideas and bide his time. Besides, democracies can come and go, are not perfect, and a Muslim democracy can still be fundamentally opposed to Israel's existence. Just as Western democracies are opposed to an independent Kurdistan. In Egypt, Mubarak is not Israel's partner, and doesn't even disguise this fact by at least stopping the inflow of terrorists and weapons into Gaza from Egypt. In Jordan, peace with Israel means the assurance that the Palestinian refugees will not be sent to Jordan. Since Jordan has an Arab majority "Palestinian" population, and it is a state created on stolen Jewish land, it should be part of a comprehensive solution. Jordan's peace with Israel will be over if the present king is killed or overthrown, or if Israel pushes the Palestinian issue onto it. If the Israeli leaders create a Palestinian terror state in the West Bank or Gaza, it might in time lead to a coup in Jordan, and a bigger Palestinian enemy against Israel. And then what?
Even when so many people call for a national referendum on disengagement, what would the question be? What is the meaning of voting for or against leaving Gaza in such absolute terms? In exchange for what? If it is unilateral disengagement, then it is in exchange for nothing. The only "certainty" ahead is the road map, with the world putting pressure on Israel to accept the return of an Arab majority and the surrender of Jerusalem. If the issue is freely debated along these lines before a referendum, most people might vote against disengagement because there is nothing to be gained, principally after the latest warnings by military and security experts on the consequences of this action. No wonder Sharon and his two deputy "Abus" PMs won't go to the people on this issue. They have no vision to sell and not even empty words. In order not to jeopardize his disengagement plan, Sharon will ignore any "minor" attacks from Gaza and return security control of many towns in the West Bank to the PA, so that all terrorist groups can prepare to fight another day... soon after disengagement, perhaps. Anywhere else these actions would represent political suicide, but not in Israel.
This situation is starting to look more and more like the reverse of "The Concept", laid down in 1973 by Eli Zeira, Chief of Military Intelligence. According to him, the Arabs were not ready for an all-out war with Israel. His doctrine convinced the entire Israel political establishment, and nearly caused the State's destruction. Now the armed forces are conveying all the danger signs, but Sharon knows it all, so...
In addition, why should anyone negotiate with any elected PM, if they can get a better deal with a future one? In Barak's case, one already knows what the deal is and that the US supported it. In Israel there are enough inflated egos to fill up the whole Middle East. Natan Sharansky's opinion that democracy exists when anyone can go to the Town Square to express their views without fear of arrest is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for real democracy. The ability to question and replace politicians is missing. So is the will to allow the IDF to win the war on terror. So far the entire set of half measures and good intentions have cost lives and gained Israel scorn abroad. Therefore, in addition to the casualties at home, anti-Semitism in Europe flourishes against those Jews unfortunate enough to be born in that hellish continent and stupid enough not to leave it before those devils lock them in again.
It is too late for this leadership to realize all that. The best hope is a new system and leaders who understand that after 12 years the only option left is victory. The world never picks a fight with a winner. Israel was envied, if not admired, until Oslo came about. It's been downhill since then. What right do Israeli leaders have to expect a change of heart by the world, when they themselves are unable to change their attitude, or at least their behavior?
To those intellectuals everywhere who suggest that Iran is ripe for change and the mullahs are on the way out, I point out that Israelis have been waiting much longer and their need for change is a lot more urgent.
No new Moses is needed to lead this project. Simply a few good people with the right skills and intentions. Journalists, professors, other public figures, the people will get involved if you act less like thinkers and more like doers. That's what your counterparts in Europe have done over the last four years, successfully spreading their negative views on Israel and Jews to the citizens. Yours will be a good cause. It doesn't have to be such a tall order. Quite the opposite, perhaps.
Unlike in Biblical times, we can't afford 40 years to wander in the wilderness, as we have been doing. Not even 40 months. It is time for the ordinary Israeli to act as statesman and organizer and expert, in his own interest.
The author has an MBA and is a lifelong traveler and avid reader. He lives in Canada. He invites comments to this article - please address them to firstname.lastname@example.org.