Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Subverting Israel's constitution

Seeing what us mere mortals fail to see, Jerusalem Post columnist Evelyn Gordon points out that "Sharon has already stretched the rules [of Israeli democracy] dangerously close to the breaking point" by forcing through his disengagement plan despite the opposition of his own party and government, and the loss of the Knesset's confidence. She writes:

None of these issues greatly bother Israel's chattering class, where the dominant view is that the end of dismantling settlements justifies any means, even the subversion of Israel's constitutional structure.

With a few exceptions – Yuli Tamir and Yossi Beilin come to mind – almost no one on the Left has dared to say that the rules of the game have value in and of themselves, regardless of whether or not one likes the outcome.

But they do, and this ought to be of supreme concern to all Israelis – because it is only the rules of the democratic game that have allowed a politically and religiously fractured nation to live together for half a century.

If these rules are shattered beyond repair – if too many Israelis become convinced that all that matters is seizing power, by any and every means – this country will not long survive.

She concludes by urging either new elections or a referendum on disengagement to reestablish democratic legitimacy.

Unfortunately, a referendum would be just as constitutionally problematic as the current situation. Israel has no constitutional provision allowing for referenda. Holding one would require special constitutional legislation for the sole purpose of rescuing Sharon's disengagement plan.

Amending the constitutional structure to suit the needs of the moment is always a bad idea. It is an option chosen too frequently by Israeli governments. I'm surprised to see Evy endorsing it.

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