Thursday, January 02, 2003
Finally, a bit about the political situation in Israel. (A very brief bit.) The Likud party, according to the most recent polls, is falling apart. And Labor is not gaining as a result; Likud voters appear to be smearing all over the map, from Shas to Shinui to the NRP to National Union. This is surely to a great extent the result of Likud's vote-buying scandals, and more generally the obvious chaos in the Central Committee. Meanwhile, what no one is talking very loudly about is what the impact would be of a significant Arab boycott of the elections, which may happen.
Likud is a mess, and if they get a lousy majority in the next election they deserve it, though it wouldn't necessarily be good for Israel (since it will mean a greater share of the vote for the far-right). But Israel's political system is a bigger problem than Likud. It is in profound crisis. The corruption reaches deep into both major parties, and the major protest party - Shinui, likely to be the third-largest after this election - has little useful to say about it. The only solution is to move from a system of proportional representation to a district-based system. This would solve three problems at once: (1) it would end the tyranny of the small parties, since these would be less-likely to gain seats in most districts; (2) it would force political parties towards the center to win "swing seats"; (3) it would help reduce the political ghettoism of both Arab Israelis and Haredi Jews, since there would now be a greater incentive for the major parties to appeal to them directly in districts where they were numerous rather than writing them off to Arab and Haredi parties.
Interestingly enough, while Shinui - the "change" party - has nothing to say on the subject of political reform, the only Israeli party that does advocate a disctrict system is one that would almost certainly be eliminated by such a change: Natan Sharansky's Yisrael B'Aliyah. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Sharansky is by far my favorite political figure in Israel today, and the man I most wish would become Prime Minister.
If you're interested in my broader views on the Israeli political system and how it needs to be reformed, you can find them here.