Israeli Units of Democracy, State Zionist Council of NSW

This talk was part of a panel for Yom Rabin which addressed the question, “is Israel the only democracy in the Middle East?”

Israel’s system of government developed out of the political system of the yishuv. The form of proportional representation used guarantees a wide diversity of opinion is represented and that personalities can play a stronger role. In the beginning everyone wants to remain independent and have their view heard. The collective feeling was that a new state in great flux needed that diversity in representation. The diversity continues with a wide variety of parties all being represented in Israel’s single house of parliament.

Despite the diversity, there seems to a strange stability. Only one Government has been brought down in Israel by a vote of no-confidence. This was the Shamir government brought down by Peres on the March 15, 1990. The choice of the Ides of March, in roman times a festival to Mars, the god of war and in Shakespeare’s play the date of the murder of Caesar, was perhaps symbolic. In any event, amid various intrigue a new coalition was not formed and eventually Shamir reformed government. Comparatively there have been 6 double dissolution of the Australian parliament, 5 since the creation of the State of Israel. With the instability of coalition governments in Israel, one would have expected this number to be higher not lower. It perhaps reflects a different type of democracy, one where the politicians and parties are constantly in flux and decisions are not normally decided by returning to a vote of the electorate.

Despite the variety, some things are prohibited. A list (election ticket) may not run in an election if it acts directly or indirectly against the existence of the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish people or against its democratic nature; a list which incites racism; a list which supports the armed struggle of an enemy state or a terrorist organization against the State of Israel.

The discussion, along way from Israel, reflected all the diversity of the Israeli political system itself.

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