Monday, October 6, 2008

Power politics in Israel

This Shabbat I read Caroline Glick's column in the Jerusalem Post about why all prime ministers, no matter on what platform they are elected, turn leftward after being in office.
After closesly following Israel's politics for 20 years, the following are my conclusions about Israeli democracy:

1. The real, stable, center of power in Israel lies within its judiciary (led by the High Court) and Israel's print and broadcast media. Both arms are dominated by the political left and supported by the industrial elites. They have the unchecked ability to prop up or bring down a politician.

2. That the industrial elites support the left leads to a paradox: that these industrialists are free market capitalists, and not socialist.

3. The coalition-parliamentary system here is inherently unstable. Since the elected officials, both in the government and knesset, change so frequently, and given the control exercised by the judiciary, the government's power is limited and operates within a fairly narrow range of options. This range is within the center-left. If it goes to the right. or too far left, it gets toppled either by a no-confidence vote or by investigations by the police and attorney general. Furthermore, since the cabinet positions are shuffled so frequently, no one person gets enough grasp of the subject of his ministry, and cannot accumulate the influence necessary for real change, before he is replaced.

4. The left believes that an unchecked elected government would become fascist and Taliban, and believe that their non-democratic oversight of the government couterbalances this tendency, and therefore try to maintain this system at all cost.

5. All of the above point to the conclusion that it does not matter a whole lot who is elected. The basic agenda will be dictated by media pressure, along with judicial oversight. Lacking a constitution, the High Court can essentially veto any government or knesset decision. The court intervenes at will and in strict accordance with its leftist agenda. Justice Minister Daniel Friedman's attempt to change this is being met with fierce resistance and is likely to fail. Furthermore, the AG has a "file" on essentially every politician that remains open but dormant for years, ready to be used at such time an official needs to be removed or pressured in a certain direction.

6. The Israeli media demonstrate breathtaking irresponsibility with their astoundingly poor editorial standards in comparison to western countries. They can propagate a "spin" on a certain issue utilizing distorted or blatantly false reporting, tabloid headlines, and superficial stories that contradict themselves one day to the next. They also willingly act as mouthpieces for the psychological warfare of our enemies. They report verbatim the latest Nasrallah or Ahmedinajad speech as a screaming headline, but say nothing about the American presidential candidates.

While the media is not government controlled, it has an overarching leftist bias which permeates all of its reporting, which relies on spin, "leaks" or comments from unidentified officials, and sensationalist headlines which blow issues totally out of proportion. There is little truly in depth investigative reporting and few in-depth stories which attempt to educate the public in a balanced way about important issues. They do all of this without any accountability whatsover. There are no corrections or apologies for errata, and certainly not for blatant falsehoods. The paper Ha'aretz is particularly guilty of this. Things that are done routinely by Ha'aretz reporters in Israel would get them fired if they worked for an American newspaper. They other major papers Maariv and Yediot are also guilty of this. In contrast I have found that The Jerusalem Post has a balanced presentation of stories. Unfortunately it is not widely read among the Israeli public, nor among foreign reporters, who prefer Ha'aretz as their source of "Israeli" news.