More democracy please

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I'm an elitist. Eighty percent of the critical decisions affecting Israel are shaped by maybe 100 or 200 people, 300. These are my clients.

Thus spaketh Prof. Yehezkel Dror, the resident blabbermouth in the Winograd Commission, which Prime Minister Ehud Olmert appointed in the wake of the 2006 war with Hizbullah. Dror made this statement in his interview with the Jerusalem Post last week.

In a separate op-ed in Haaretz, Dror expanded on his theme. He explained that of these 300 decision makers who make life and death decisions in Israel, "less than thirty" are elected officials. So as Dror sees it, less than 10 percent of the people who determine the direction of the country on the greatest issues of the day are accountable to the public. And that's okay by him.

In his interview with the Post, Dror explained that while he wouldn't mind if the nation as a whole read the Winograd report, the 300, overwhelmingly unelected decision-makers "are the people I want to read the report and discuss it. The other people, I also want them to read it, but I'm more interested in those few hundred. Because a few can make a difference."

Given Dror's open prejudices, it is clear that when he told Ma'ariv that in his view advancing the diplomatic process with the Palestinians is more important than ousting Olmert and his colleagues from office for their incompetence, it is clear that he wasn't addressing the general public which opposes the Olmert-Livni-Barak government's policies towards the Palestinians. He was talking to his fellow, unelected elitists who run the country and support their policies.

Dror said, "We must think of the consequences [of forcing Olmert from office]. What do you prefer? A government led by Olmert and [Defense Minister Ehud] Barak or new elections that will give rise to a government led by [opposition leader and Likud Chairman Binyamin] Netanyahu?"

The "We," he referred to was not, "We the people of the State of Israel." It was "We, the unelected leftists who run the country."

The Winograd report went into rhetorical and logical contortions to defend Olmert's handling of the last stages of the war. Its central assertion was the dubious, poorly argued claim that Olmert's decision to launch a 60-hour ground offensive in Lebanon after the UN Security Council had unanimously adopted resolution 1701 which set the terms of the cease-fire was not only reasonable but unavoidable. Thirty-three soldiers died in that offensive which the commission acknowledged served no military purpose. The report's conclusion all but silenced the reservists and bereaved families demanding the government's resignation and new elections.

GIVEN DROR'S conviction that the he, like the other members of the Winograd Commission are members of Israel's governing elite, it is important to discuss the wisdom of its members' views and perceptions of reality, as they are informed by their leftist political bias. Dror asserted that Olmert's embrace of the so-called peace process "is a serious consideration" when determining whether Olmert should be permitted to remain in office in spite of his obvious failure in leading the country in war in 2006. He further claimed that it is his rich professional experience, rather than his ideological prejudices that lead him to reach this conclusion.

But do the facts back up his claim? And what do the facts tell us about the desirability of being led by "professionals" rather than "politicians?"

Today Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni are conducting "secret" negotiations with the leaders of Fatah towards the establishment of a Palestinian state. In the course of their negotiations they are discussing the transfer of the overwhelming majority of Judea and Samaria as well as neighborhoods in eastern, northern and southern Jerusalem to Fatah control. Fatah leaders, including Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas are embraced by Olmert, Livni and their colleagues as peace partners who have made the decision to work to live at peace with Israel.

And yet, Fatah was among the groups taking credit for the suicide bombing in Dimona last week. Fatah-run media outlets glorified the bombers in Dimona as martyrs. Fatah forces in Gaza have integrated in large numbers into Hamas's terror forces. Fatah forces are responsible for a plurality of the rocket, missile and mortar attacks against the Western Negev. Most of the IDF's operations in Judea and Samaria target Fatah terror cells, many of which are directed by Iran through Hizbullah. Even the US, which seeks to rebuild Fatah forces into a counter-terror gendarmerie, believes that rebuilding them into counter-terror forces will cost $4.2 billion to $7 billion over five years.

Is it reasonable to support a diplomatic process with Fatah which would transfer control over large swathes of Jerusalem, and the majority of Judea and Samaria to terrorists openly engaged in acts of war against Israel and openly in league with Israel's sworn enemies?

Olmert exhibits the same incompetence he displayed towards Hizbullah in 2006 in his treatment of the bombardment of southern Israel from Gaza today. Does the fact that he supports this diplomatic process with Fatah render him competent to continue to lead the country?

THEN THERE is the Israeli elite's view of UN Security Council Resolution 1701. As the representative of that elite, the Winograd Commission heaped praise on the government for the resolution which set the terms for the cease-fire. Yet it is far from clear why 1701 is praiseworthy.

Under 1701, Hizbullah has reasserted its control over South Lebanon. Under the nose of the UNIFIL forces which 1701 supposedly empowered, Hizbullah has deployed a massive arsenal of anti-tank missiles in the south to counter any future IDF ground offensive. It has also deployed missiles and missile launchers in the south. Posing as journalists, Hizbullah operatives carry out daily reconnaissance missions along the border to assess IDF troop levels, fortifications and positions. And under 1701, Israel is prohibited from taking action to mitigate this growing threat. All it can do is complain to UNIFIL, which in turn, does nothing.

So is it reasonable to applaud the Olmert-Livni-Barak government which now seeks to negotiate a similar agreement for the deployment of foreign forces in Gaza? Is it "professional" to support the government in its quest to see Fatah reassert its control over Gaza's border with Egypt? Does it make "professional" sense to block new elections to protect a government that seeks to reinforce Egyptian troop strength along the border when the Egyptian military – like the Lebanese military deployed in South Lebanon next to Hizbullah – at best does nothing and at worst collaborates with Hamas and its fellow terrorists as they infiltrate Gaza with advanced weapons supplied from Iran?

If the intuitive answer to these questions is no, then this tells us something deeply disturbing about the quality of Israel's elites, which like the members of the Winograd Commission, have rallied around Olmert because he is committed to giving Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem to Fatah in exchange for an empty promise of peace which no one actually believes.

DROR NOTED rightly that many of the governance problems that Israel faces today are a consequence of the country's youth. More than 60 years are required for a nation to get things right.

But the fact is that Israel's surrender of governing authority to unelected, unwise elitists is not unique. In the US, the publication of the National Intelligence Estimate on Iran last December has been characterized by the Wall Street Journal and others as an assault on presidential authority by unaccountable, unelected career State Department officials on loan to the o
ffice of the Director of National Intelligence. These officials – Thomas Fingar, Vann Van Diepen and Kenneth Brill – are reputedly deeply partisan and hostile to President George W. Bush's foreign policy goals and skeptical of the threat posed to US national security by Iran's nuclear program.

Last week, the Admiral Michael McConnell, the Director of National Intelligence, tried to mitigate the damage the NIE did to US efforts to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. The NIE's blatantly politically motivated opening line, which asserted that Iran suspended its nuclear weapons program in 2003 empowered Iran and sent US efforts to build an international coalition against Iran into a tailspin from which they have not recovered.

As reports emerged about Iran's installation of advanced centrifuges for enriching uranium, McConnell testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee and claimed that the Iranians may acquire a nuclear bomb by 2009. Yet his testimony was no match for the "professional" work done by his unelected underlings. It received but a fraction of the news coverage the NIE enjoyed. And it is not clear that his statement will affect the chances of ratifying a new, watered-down sanctions resolution against Iran in the Security Council.

WHAT ISRAEL'S experience with the Winograd Commission and its unelected elites, and the US's experience with the NIE and its unelected elites show quite clearly is that contrary to the assertions of Dror and his elitist colleagues, it is not the presence or absence of "professionals" at decision-making levels that determine whether or not wise policies are adopted. What determines whether or not good policies are adopted is whether the ideologies held by leaders concur with reality or clash with it and whether leaders are men and women of intellectual and personal integrity.

Beyond that, the experiences of both countries show that time after time, the public is far quicker to abandon failed ideologies than the elitists who lead while shirking accountability in the name of professionalism.

With all due respect to Dror and his colleagues in Israel and their counterparts in America, we need less rather than more "professionals" forcing their ideological agendas on us in the name of "professionalism." We need to ensure that those making the decisions which determine matters of life and death are accountable to us, and not to unelected, generally unwise elitists.

 Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.

 

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3 Comments

  • Marc Handelsman, USA 02/12/2008 at 19:44

    Israel needs wise statesmen who grasp the gravity of a nuclear-armed Iran along with strategic threats facing the North and South. If the status quo continues, Israel will blunder again by surrendering large sections of Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria to Islamic terrorists. Now is the time for Shas to make good on its promise to leave the Olmert regime and bring down the government. More Israelis should follow the example of Sderot’s besieged citizens/leaders, and rightly demand decisive action before more innocent Jewish civilians are murdered and maimed.

    Reply
  • Ken M. 02/13/2008 at 4:08

    Glick writes…In the US, the publication of the National Intelligence Estimate on Iran last December has been characterized by the Wall Street Journal and others as an assault on presidential authority by unaccountable, unelected career State Department officials on loan to the office of the Director of National Intelligence. These officials – Thomas Fingar, Vann Van Diepen and Kenneth Brill – are reputedly deeply partisan and hostile to President George W. Bush’s foreign policy goals and skeptical of the threat posed to US national security by Iran’s nuclear program.
    The hostility of these individuals is directed primarily towards Israel, as much as they dislike Pres. Bush one should remember that presidents come and go but anti-zionism in the minds and hearts of State Department and Intelligence community officials is unfortunately forever and does far more than undermine presidential administrations but serves to undermine the security of Israel and the US. These types of men recognize the threat to the US of Iranian nuclear efforts but there hatred of Israel is so intense that they don’t care. They deceive themselves and others into minimizing the threat in hopes that Israel will be destroyed. There anti-zionism leaves no room for patriotism or concern for the safety of the US. If Israel can be injured by policies that are also harmful to the US they will not hesitate to advance those policies. Anti-zionists are always anti-american.

    Reply
  • Art Glick 02/23/2008 at 20:55

    Take it from me living here in the USA, Caroline. A government controlled by an unelected cabal of rightists is far worse than one controlled by leftists!
    The only way you can have true democracy is if it is 100 percent participatory, and that will never happen either here or there.
    Let’s also not forget that democracy can come down to two wolves and a lamb deciding what’s for dinner!
    Even if you could have “more democracy”, it would be worthless without personal liberty and freedom.

    Reply

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