Anyone who listened to the reports of the Herzliya conference, and especially to the prime minister's speech on Thursday, could not avoid feeling that Israel is not a state with an elite, but an elite that has a state. The elite summons the state to a members' meeting in Caesarea or Herzliya for its amusement, and to spread before its members economic or security policy.
The conference is the Israeli politician's dream. The ambience is warm, and the pat on the back on the way to the speaker's podium infuses in him a sense of calm he has not known for a long time. Nobody pushes him like they do in the party's central committee, and nobody asks for help, as they do when he tours the city streets. On the contrary - they all tell the minister that they are at his service, should he need any advice or even a small contribution as a mark of appreciation for his excellent work.
What a wonderful nation we have, whispers the minister to himself. Everyone is well dressed, calm, smiling. What a pity I don't come here every day, instead of to that miserable place they call the Knesset, with those loud people sitting there and criticizing everything, with all those Arabs who are a real and present demographic danger, those parasitical ultra-Orthodox and annoying left wingers, who propose a new political plan every day.
And then, with a smile on his lips, the minister gives an important political speech that the nation is waiting for. The audience is moved and filled with awe, the journalists are silent, the television and radio report his statement on live broadcast - it's idyllic.
In exchange for the pleasure and satisfaction the ministers and prime minister derive from the conference, they are willing to postone their urgent speech until the gathering. Is a reform needed in education? Now is the time to announce it, because there is a conference. Should a political decision have been made two months ago? Let's announce in advance that we are waiting for the next conference. The announcement is the main thing, anyway. We won't discuss the reform until the next conference, anyway.
When the time comes, the minister marches to the podium, and there, with the emblem of a private institution behind him and the logo of a luxury hotel before him, he makes a statement and promotes a private commercial brand name. Behind the speaker sit the donors, who get to join the political circle for a brief moment. Before him sit the members of the press, who cooperate willingly with the privatization of politics.
In the entrance halls to the event the elite members note with satisfaction how different they are from the Knesset. They too are pleased that there are no ultra-Orthodox or Arabs, or new immigrants here. Nor are there young people, hardly any women, no unemployed or poor people, and Eti Peretz, head of the social workers' union, bears the whole weight of the entire social message on her back.
Don't you think, I asked the organizers' representatives, that speeches such as those made in the Caesarea conference or Herzliya should have been made in the Knesset, to the nation and its representatives? In the Knesset, replied one of the organizers, there is no serious forum that understands these matters. The Knesset, added another, is an embarrassing place with people with no manners. A third summed up with abysmal seriousness, that the Knesset should prove its worth if it wants such speeches to be made in it.
Thus the Israeli elite lends its hand to erasing the enormous achievements of Israeli democracy. With no representative institutions, with no effective parliamentary criticism and scrutiny, with no respect to the legislative institution and the people's elected officials, there is no democracy. Anyone really interested in democracy and national strength, and not merely in good public relations, must stop a minute and act with the Knesset, to restore its status and place as the stage on which to debate and make the decisions molding the state's future.
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