INTO THE FRAY: Israel’s dysfunctional electorate?

For your perusal, my latest INTO THE FRAY column

Israel’s dysfunctional electorate?

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Despite its many undoubted merits, democracy has one glaring detriment. There is never a dictator to blame for the fate that befalls the people. They alone are responsible for whatever befalls them.


It appears this week on the following sites (in alphabetical order):


Several short excerpts:    

“Nec audiendi qui solent dicere, Vox populi, vox Dei, quum tumultuositas vulgi semper insaniae proxima sit (And those people should not be listened to who keep saying the voice of the people is the voice of God, since the riotousness of the crowd is always very close to madness). – Alcuin of York, an English scholar, clergyman, and poet (c. 735 –804 CE)

Israel is now hurtling towards its third national election within a year.

Not Force Majeure

This was not an outcome precipitated by some unforeseen or uncontrollable force majeure. On the contrary, it was entirely the result—albeit an entirely perverse and paradoxical one—of the free exercise of collective human volition.

It was perverse and paradoxical because it reflected the diametric opposite of the express–and expressed—desires of the individuals comprising the collectives involved in precipitating it.

Toxic quagmire of irreconcilable demands

Netanyahu (Likud), Gantz (Blue & White); Liberman (Yisrael Beiteinu)

As the inevitability of a new election drew inexorably closer, and the quagmire of the irreconcilable political demands of the potential coalition partners grew more viscous and more noxious, so the blame-game, the endeavor to attribute guilt for the undesirable outcome, spiraled to evermore shrill and venomous levels. Every political faction pointed accusatory fingers at every other faction.

Each party extolled its own “flexibility” and underscored its own selfless willingness for sacrifice to hobble together a coalition—any coalition-to avoid a dreaded third national ballot.

Another perverse paradox

This brings us to the second perverse paradox.

Zvi Hauser and Yoaz Hendel — Right- of-Center Blue and White MKs

Apart from Liberman reneging on his pre-election pledges in April to help set up a Right-wing coalition (or, at least, what many saw as such), the subsequent rounds of elections were in fact precipitated by the various parties ostensibly insisting on honoring their electoral pledges to their voters. ..Thus, the event, which no-one wanted (i.e. additional elections) came about precisely because the elected politicians strove to stick to their campaign promises and to provide their voters what they elected them for.

Dysfunctional or irrational?

—the ongoing political saga in Israel leads unavoidably to one of two gloomy conclusions regarding the Israeli electorate as a functioning collective:

(a) It is either dysfunctional in that it cannot agree to provide any elected political entity, or any combination thereof, the power to govern—i.e. it cannot generate the collective will to allow the formation of a viable elected government; or

(b) It is irrational in that it has a collective desire to install a viable government but insists on rewarding precisely those who thwart that desire.

Arguably, either possibility was clearly discernible in the last round of elections.

Perversely and paradoxically

However, when the next elections came about (in September) instead of punishing the very faction that frustrated the formation of a governing coalition, the electorate chose—perversely and paradoxically—to reward it, almost doubling Yisrael Beteinu’s strength in the Knesset; commensurately increasing its ability to torpedo the formation of any future coalition—which, of course, it did.

Worse, if current polls are anything to go by, Liberman’s faction will retain more or less the same number of seats as it has today, leaving its obstructive power undiminished.

No dictator to blame

Of course, Israel’s elected politicians have been sorely reproached for the prevailing fiasco. Much has been made of the cost of the repeated elections and of how many classrooms could be built, hospital beds increased, and roads upgraded with the sums required to conduct them.

This, of course, is as true as it is irrelevant. For the necessity of holding and re-holding elections is due to one thing, and one thing alone—the election results, which reflect the will of the voters.

There is an important lesson to be learnt from all this on free choice and civic responsibility. It is this:

Despite its many undoubted merits, democracy has one glaring detriment. There is never a dictator to blame for the fate that befalls the people. They, and they alone, hold the key to their destiny and for whatever befalls them.


As usual your talkbacks/comments/critiques welcome,

Best wishes,


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