F U T U R E   I S R A E L


Liberal Democracy for a Heterogeneous Society

By Noah Nissani

One frequently repeated argument in support of the Oslo agreement asserts that choice must inevitable be made between:
1) a democratic Jewish state within the 1967 borders,
2) a state endangered by a possible future Arab majority.

In the latter case, they say, the state could not be simultaneously Jewish and democratic. This argument is correct with respect to an Euro-continental parliamentary democracy kind, which has a deplorable historical record and paved the way for the rise of Nazism, Fascism, and Marxism.

In addition to its tragic history, this parliamentary system suffers from basic liberal deficiencies; it generally requires the formation of coalitions which lead to:
* Disproportional political power to tiny and often extremist minorities. This is precisely what paved the way for the rise of the above-mentioned regimes.
* Corruption: Even the most ideological coalition agreement involves elements of bribery, since political positions are exchanged for compromises in the performance of public functions.
* Submission of deputies to the party, which is in line with Lenin's conception of party discipline (1), becomes necessary to assure the fulfillment of the compromises established in the coalition agreement. "The representatives of the people," who are elected to govern on its behalf, become transformed into "delegates of the party" subject to the directives of its central committee. The dependence of the representatives on the party introduces an additional element of bribery: The deputies are required to act against the dictates of their conscience in exchange for support from the party. (2)
* It violates the liberal principle of the separation of powers on two counts: First, the executive branch is generated by and subordinate to the parliament (formally, it more like an executive branch of parliament than a separate independent power(3)). And second, because turns the party's central committee into a "superpower" that prevails over the formal ones. The representatives of the legislature and the ministers of the executive branch are controlled by the same power, namely the central committee, and therefore, virtually nothing remains of their formal separation.

Lenin's conception of party discipline was the basis for Stalin's dictatorship, who became the absolute ruler of the Soviet Union without holding any government post. In Israel, the Prime Minister is generally the dominant figure in the party, which grants him almost total control of the government and the Knesset. Montesquieu asserts that the unique source of democracy's power is virtue. In his view, monarchy or aristocracy, can survive with a certain amount of corruption since they have a different source of power, but corrupt democracies soon collapse (4). Indeed, the above-mentioned deficiencies have led in many occasions to the delegitimation of democratically constituted governments and to their replacement by dictatorships. In some cases it is the government itself which, feeling threatened by its loss of legitimacy among the citizens, takes emergency measures that ultimately turn the government into a dictatorship. Such was the case of the Fascism in Italy following the assassination of the socialist leader Giacomo Matteotti. In other cases such as the Spanish Civil War, civil or military forces deposed the elected authorities, regarded by them as delegitimized.

Fortunately, there are other forms of democracy which are more liberal and stable. Their prime example is American democracy, which has survived for over two centuries. It should be noted that since its inception, American democracy faced the challenge of building a liberal democracy for a heterogeneous society. In Israel, where nearly a 20% of the population inside the "green line" are Arabs, we face a similar challenge, with or without the Arab populations of Judea, Samaria, and Gaza.

A liberal democracy in a heterogeneous society must take into account the idiosyncrasies and needs of the diverse components in the society. Otherwise, it would resemble some boys and a girl who form a democratic society in which everything is decided by majority rule. (The result is left to the reader's imagination.) In the American case, the less populated states felt their freedom threatened by the more populated ones. In a strict "one-man one-vote" regime, this threat could have constituted a real danger. The wise solution was to violate the principle of equal political rights in favor of addressing the needs and concerns of each component. The bicameral English parliament, itself designed for a heterogeneous society, became the model for the two Houses of the American Congress: the House of Representatives and the Senate. In the latter, each state is represented by two senators, regardless of its population. Therefore, one resident of Arkansas has almost the same influence as twenty Californians in the Senate.

When the Israeli democracy was formed, the specific needs of Jews and Arabs as distinct nationalities were ignored. The illusory notion of a homogeneous society consisting of a uniform citizenry -- perhaps under the influence of the prevailing antinationalist Marxist ideology -- was embraced only in a formal level. This fallacy, reinforced by the lack of a constitution, led to a totalitarian democracy in which the majority ruled without restrictions, and Arabs as well as political and religious minorities have been discriminated against. The following examples will suffice:
* None of the areas inhabited by Arabs has ever been included in the long list of favored "development areas", despite the fact that these are among the most undeveloped areas in the country.
* The non-Orthodox branches of Judaism are seriously restricted in their religious rights. * With a major part of the economy controlled by the government and the Histadrut, dissidents and Arabs were deprived of their basic right to equal employment opportunities.
The Euro-continental democracy has proven inadequate for both components of our society:
* It has failed to ensure the civil rights of the Arab minority.
* It jeopardizes the Jews' survival by giving the Arabs the right to vote on issues related to the Jews' security. For example, the weight of the Arab vote in approving the Oslo agreements, which played a decisive role, for better or worse, in determining the future of the Jews.

True peace can only be achieved if an authentic liberal approach is adopted. This approach must provide an adequate solution for the dispersed Jewish people, whose survival is threatened as a minority everywhere outside of Israel, and as an isolated enclave amidst a sea of Arab nations. Therefore, the issues of security and immigration must be exclusively in the hands of the Jews. At the same time, the Arabs must also be provided with an adequate frame for autonomous existence, and full enjoy of civil and political rights. This can be achieved within an American-type democracy, in which the principle of strictly egalitarian participation of all citizens in all issues has been wisely sacrificed in favor of a realistic concern for the specific needs of the parts.

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(1) "What is to be done?" (1902) Wladimir Ilich Lenin (1870-1924)

(2) It is worth noticing that in the new Constitution the Germans felt need to explicitly establish, what in liberal concepts must be self-evident:

" They are representatives of the whole people, are not bound by orders and instructions and are subject only to their conscience." (Art. 38)

(3) "When legislative power is united with executive power in a single person or in a single body of the magistracy, there is no liberty". ("The Spirit of the Laws", Charles Louis de Secondat Baron de Montesquieu (1689-1755))

"Two powers that generate one the other in this manner, cannot be too independent". ("Bases, and Start-up Points for the Politic Organization of the Argentine Republic", (1852) Juan Bautista Alberdi (1810-84))

(4) "There need not be much integrity for a monarchical government or despotic government to maintain or sustain itself .... But in a popular state there must be an additional spring, which is VIRTUE.... in a popular government when the laws have ceased to be executed, as this can come only from the corruption of the republic, the state is already lost." (Montesquieu o.c. i, III, 3)

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