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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Israel's flourishing democracy (IMRA)

...and the fading Left:

Many of Israel’s detractors on the left argue that Israel’s democracy is in a state of decline. A closer look shows that Israeli democracy is thriving. A gradual decentralization of power since Likud’s rise to the top in 1977 has given more political groups a chance to share power. The judicial system is strong and independent, and fearless in its prosecution of senior politicians. The end of party-affiliated journalism has allowed greater criticism of the government by the Israeli media. Minority groups enjoy greater rights than ever before. The army has become more professional and plays a smaller role in decision-making than before. When taking these factors into consideration, it is clear that Israeli democracy is doing quite well, despite the assertions of the fading left.

The frustrated Israeli left that failed to garner support in recent elections has adopted a new strategy. Already before shrinking in the 2009 elections to only 16 Knesset members (represented by Labor and Meretz), several leftist figures decided to turn to external forces “to save Israel from itself” rather than struggle for the hearts and minds of the Israeli people. They argued that Israel’s democracy is in danger and tried to mobilize European and American public opinion to pressure Israel in their desired direction. A recent example of this strategy is an opinion piece in The New York Times titled “Israel’s Fading Democracy.”

This op-ed exemplifies the longing for the days when the left was in power, particularly before 1977, a year that ended the Labor party hegemony in Israeli politics. Yet an objective analysis of the traits of Israeli politics shows that Israel’s vibrant democracy is alive and kicking and actually faring much better than it did during the “old days.”

...The post-1977 period was characterized by greater social mobility. The erosion of socialist practices and privatization of a centralized economy contributed to the growth of a non-Ashkenazi middle class.

...The independence of the police and the judicial system in Israel has drastically increased in recent years. The Israel judicial system fearlessly prosecuted a president, prime minister, and cabinet ministers, becoming the subject of envy in many democratic states. The police, due to the prodding of the courts, have also allowed greater freedom of expression by demonstrations than before.

The media – the watchdog of democracy – has been totally transformed after 1977. The mobilized written and electronic press disappeared. Almost all “party” newspapers have vanished. In their place a plethora of media outlets with different agendas emerged. To be sure, Netanyahu was instrumental in the establishment of a right-wing newspaper, Israel Hayom. But most of the written and electronic media, as well as the new social media, is free and fills its duties, sometimes too well, as the watching dog of the politicians.

Additionally, in the area of minority rights Israel fares increasingly etter than many democratic countries. Until 1965 the Israeli Arabs were under a military government and the two all-Arab parties in the Knesset during Labor’s rule were branches of the ruling party. Today there are three Arab parties which represent a variety of views. Gays in Israel successfully gained rights due to the ultra-liberal policies of the Supreme Court. There is definitely greater sensitivity and corresponding legislature for equality among women and disadvantaged groups.
Read the whole thing.

(h/t My Right Word)