Reprinted from zope.gush-shalom.org
WHEN I first entered the Knesset, I was shocked by the low standard of its debates. Speeches were full of cliche's, platitudes and party slogans, the intellectual content was almost nil.
That was 52 years ago. Among the members were David Ben-Gurion, Menachem Begin, Levi Eshkol and several others of their kind.
Today, looking back, that Knesset looks like an Olympus, compared to the present composition of that non-august body.
AN INTELLIGENT debate in today's Knesset would be as out of place as a Pater Noster in a Synagogue.
Let's face it, the present Knesset is full of what I would call parliamentary riffraff. Men and women I would not drink a cup of coffee with. Some of them look and behave like walking jokes. One is suspected of owning a bordello in Eastern Europe. Several would be rejected out of hand by any self-respecting private employer.
These people are now engaged in an unprecedented competition of outrageous "private" bills -- bills submitted to Knesset vote not by the government, but by individual members. I have already mentioned some of these bills recently -- like the bill to recognize Israel as the "National Home of the Jewish People" - and they multiply by the week. They do not attract any special attention, because the bills introduced by the government are hardly more sensible.
The question necessarily arises: how did these people get elected in the first place?
In the old parties, such as the Likud and the Zionist Camp (a.k.a. the Labor Party), there are primaries. These are internal elections, in which the party members select their representatives. For example, the head of the workers' committee of a large public enterprise got all the employees and their families registered in the Likud, and they got him on the party list for the general elections. Now he is a minister.
Newer "parties" dispense with all this nonsense. The party founder personally selects the members of the party list, at his or her pleasure. The members are totally dependent. If they displease the leader, they are simply kicked out at the next election and replaced by more obedient lackeys.
THE ISRAELI system allows any group of citizens to set up an election list. If they pass the electoral threshold, they enter the Knesset.
In the first few elections, the threshold was 1%. That's how I got elected three times. Since then, the threshold has been raised and now stands at 3.25% of the valid votes.
Naturally, I was a great supporter of the original system. It has, indeed, some outstanding advantages. The Israeli public has many divisions - Jews and Arabs, Western Jews and Eastern Jews, new immigrants and old-timers, religious (of several kinds) and secular, rich and poor, and more. The system allows all of these to be represented. The prime minister and the government are elected by the Knesset. Since no party has ever achieved a majority in elections, governments are always based on coalitions, which provide some checks and balances.
At some stage, the law was changed and the Prime Minister was elected directly. The public quickly became disillusioned and the old system was reinstated.
Now, seeing the riffraff that have entered the Knesset, I am changing my opinion. Obviously, something in the existing system is extremely wrong.