Sunday, November 27, 2011

Minority vs. Majority Rule: B. Begin's Backward Democracy

Benny Begin writes of "Knowing how to govern" and exclaims:

Some on the Right, who belong to the parliamentary majority dubbed "the right-wing camp," have been lamenting the so-called dire political straits they are in. "We have been in power for 30 years but we are not 'in control,'" is one common refrain...[but...they have no idea how to govern, or worse, do not want to govern.

These grumblers are blind to the failure of their traditional rivals. The Left's representation in the Knesset has dwindled and is just a small minority; socialism has been out of favor as an economic system for years now; only a small number of people still believe that peace and security are within reach given the current Arab leadership in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip; about 600,000 Jews currently reside "outside the Green Line" [demarcating Israel's border with Jordan prior to the Six-Day War].

But there are still "left-wing collaborators in the Likud," one bitter and frustrated hero told me last week. "They frustrate every piece of legislation put forth by the national camp," he said...[but]...these political gluttons are actually referring to a completely different thing: "unchecked right-wing rule."

...An unchecked majority tends to steam roll others. If the majority fails to understand that it must restrain itself, we must introduce measures to check it and see that they are is incumbent upon Likud members to frustrate repeated efforts to introduce a free rein...I am not talking about being magnanimous, but rather being decent. It is not about being just; it is about being smart.

...Knowing how to govern entails recognizing the limits of power and the minority's rights. Knowing how to govern means translating into action Hillel the Sage's maxim of treating others the way you would like to be treated. History has shown that a government whose supporters are ashamed of it will ultimately lose its grip on power.

Begin, to support his magnanimity, asserts:

Many political office-holders come from the Right. This is also true when it comes to various senior management positions and many other fields in the country.

This, however, is not quite correct. And in being slightly incorrect, Minister Begin is being too harsh on his fellow Likudniks.

There are three main anti-democratic elites in Israel's society: the media, the courts and the academia. Each of those three interlock with each other to defend each other and to launch coordinated attacks against 'hostile' forces. The frustration caused is problematic because while there is no "democratic solution", because those elites are undemocratically operating after entrenchment, any move to undermine their power is labeled as undemocratic.

A case in point: when Mr. Begin became Minister of cience he was approached by someone who had previously worked in the Ministry, had a collgeg degree and was sane and normal. It was suggested that he become Begin's PPS (personal private secretary) or senior advisor. Begin declined and moreover, kept the Meretz-appointed Director-General in place.

That is not how to "rule" and there is nothing undemocratic or trampling of a minority in that. In fact, with that attitude, the minority is what rules.

I cannot disagee with Begin's understanding of what is required in Israel in terms of honoring the mores of public democratic beahvior.  But if those aren't shared by all, those who aren't willing to make sure the rules apply to all for all will lose out.


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