Civil Uprisings Demand a Constitution

The system is rotten, and Israel’s infrastructures are in the pits. Only a radical cure will do, and only one goal will be a success worthy of Israel’s popular uprising.

Carlo Strenger
Carlo Strenger
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Carlo Strenger
Carlo Strenger

Daphne Lief, the young woman who initiated the civil uprising that is spreading like a wildfire through Israel, has said that the citizens need not know the solution of the problems that they are protesting against. She has asked the politicians to come up with the solutions.

The protesters are right: they need not come up with the solution to each individual problem. How can they come up with the solutions when they can't even formulate the problems? And here lies the deepest illness of Israel: The problems’ true nature is hidden from the public eye. All the symptoms that Israel’s citizens are protesting against are the expression of one, fundamental illness: the relation between government and the citizenry.

The protest near Kaplan Street in Tel Aviv Saturday. In Jerusalem the author David Grossman said: 'People are loyal to the state but the state is not loyal to them.'Credit: Alon Ron

For decades, Israel’s politicians have worked in shady, gray areas hidden from the public eye. To this day nobody can get a clear answer where special funding really goes. Billions of shekels disappear under categories that cannot really be traced.

For decades Israel’s politicians have assumed that taxpayers’ monies are a tool to buy political favors. They haven’t understood that they are spending money that doesn’t belong to them, and that taxpayer’s money belongs to the middle classes that work hard to earn it.

This is why they didn’t invest in long-term infrastructure that would serve the citizenry; from roads and public transport to the educational system. And this is why today the middle classes find themselves hemorrhaging the highest taxes in the free world, getting very little in return.

The system is rotten, and Israel’s infrastructures are in the pits. The protesters are right not to let Netanyahu buy them off with short-term solutions.

Only a radical cure will do, and only one goal will be a success worthy of Israel’s popular uprising: a constitution for Israel. Only a constitution will fundamentally reframe the relation between government and citizenry, and re-empower Israel’s citizens as sovereign.

The constitution will first and foremost carve the separation of powers into stone. We have recently seen how Israel’s parliamentarians are trying to gain control over the judiciary. We must make sure that they never, ever even think of trying this again. Because an independent judiciary is the guarantor that political power is checked. This will make sure that Israel never looks like Russia, where politicians use the judiciary, instead of being afraid of it.

The constitution will institute the principle of accountability: Never again must taxpayers’ money be used without accounting for the last cent. Never again must decisions that determine the future and nature of the state be implemented without democratic oversight.

The constitution will terminate the anomaly of Israel among liberal democracy, and it will demand the total separation of religion and state. This will make sure that Israel will never look like Iran, and stop the untenable situation that a growing number of Israel’s citizens are educated towards democratic illiteracy and are incapable of joining the workplace.

Israel’s popular uprising is an outcry for human dignity. Only a constitution that carves the core value of human dignity for all into stone forever can clean up the corrupt chaos that is Israeli politics.

The litmus test for politicians is whether they endorse or reject a constitution. Those who reject it must be exposed mercilessly, because they will continue to serve narrow interests, and work just to preserve their own power, and not be accountable for the common good.

Only politicians willing to fight for a constitution for Israel can be trusted to have Israel’s long-term interest as a liberal democracy in mind. And Israel’s democratic character is inevitably tied to the suffering of the middle class - whether they are mothers, young couples or students - because liberal democracy means that individual’s rights cannot be compromised.

Only politicians who pledge to work towards a constitution can be trusted to serve citizens rather than dominating them, and to reinstate the dignity that Israel’s citizens demand.



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