New ideas: Israeli politics

Ambassador Dhano Obongo. Photo: File

By Dhano Obongo

February 2, 2017 (SSNA) — In the beginning, God created heaven and earth. Then He made people and things became complicated.  At a crossroads of Eurasian and African peoples on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea, God placed what was called a promised land inhabited by the descendants of a man called Abraham.  Their forms of governance since biblical times have existed under various geographical names and systems with lots of kings, strong men, and governors.

This Holy Land is currently Israeli but in former times was called Palestine.  In biblical days, their governance was based on the Torah, or first five books of the Bible written by Moses who was appointed by God as the leader of God chosen people. A legal system, courts, and law became ingrained subject to change by successive conquerors and rulers.

A British mandate existed in modern times from postwar 1920 to 1948 when the United Nations recognized modern Israel.  Under the United Kingdom (UK) Mandate, emergency regulations permitted punitive actions and limits on any group from which a threat to good order was deemed to originate.  These rubrics were chiefly applied to Arabic peoples.  Jewish inhabitants by majority rule originated what became known as the Jewish National Council (JNC).  Their electoral and political system evolved from largely European systems in use as the twentieth century began.  A movement called Zionism established political parties and divisions of political thought.  Leaders organized conferences named World Zionist Conference (WZC), the first held in 1898 in Basel, Switzerland.  Various ideological viewpoints competed.  Some advocated a labor movement, some were highly religious, and others strongly nationalistic.  Evolution provided today’s labor party currently known as One Israel, and numerous religious parties such as Shas and the National Religious Party Likud.

Zionist leaders wanted to have the widest possible representation in the WZC which led Israelites’ to chosen a proportionate electoral system.  This means that the number of seats in a legislative body held by a faction or party is determined by the percentage of the vote received.  This system resulted in the Israeli congress, known as the Knesset, being divided into several groups.  Accordingly, it is difficult to assemble adequate preponderances to form governments.

In 1949, the newly developed Constituent Assembly (CA) changed itself to become the National Parliamentary Knesset which established what is called the Basic Law providing the principal procedures for governance and power.  Basic Law founds the guidelines for the President, Knesset, Prime Minister, and his Cabinet.  This means that the president has only traditional responsibilities.

In1996, new provisions were enacted for the people to directly elect the Prime Minister (PM).  In this unusual system, the PM may have the backing of a preponderance of popular vote but not drive power from leading the majority party in the legislature.

Israeli political governance is founded on a combination of a parliamentary system with the election of the PM by means of a presidential system.

The author may be reached via email address: [email protected].

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