Civil Uprising Must Demand a Constitution

All the symptoms that Israel's citizens are protesting are the expression of one fundamental illness: the relationship between government and citizenry.

Daphni Leef - the young woman who initiated the civil uprising currently sweeping Israel like a wildfire - has said that citizens need not know the answers to the problems they are protesting. She has asked the politicians to come up with the solutions themselves.

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

Daphni Leef, housing protest
Nir Kafri

For decades, Israel's politicians have worked in the shadows - in shady, gray areas hidden from the public eye. To this day, no one can get a clear answer about where special funding really goes. Billions of shekels disappear into spending categories that cannot really be traced.

For decades, Israel's politicians have assumed that taxpayers' money is a tool for buying political favors. They have not understood that they are spending money that doesn't belong to them, and that taxpayers' money belongs to the middle classes who work tirelessly to earn it.

This is why Israel's politicians didn't invest in long-term infrastructure to serve the citizenry - from roads and public transportation to education. And this is why today the middle classes find themselves hemorrhaging one of the highest tax rates in the free world and getting very little in return.

The system is rotten, and Israel's infrastructures are in the dumps. The protesters are right not to let Netanyahu buy them off with a short-term solution.

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

First and foremost, a constitution will set in stone a separation of powers. We have seen recently how Israel's parliamentarians are trying to take control of the judiciary. We must make sure that they never even think of trying it again, because an independent judiciary guarantees that political power is checked. This will ensure that Israel never looks like Russia, where politicians use the judiciary for their own purposes rather than fearing it as they should.

A constitution will institute a principle of accountability: Never again must taxpayers' money be used without being accounted for to the very last cent. Never again must decisions that determine the future and nature of the state be implemented without democratic oversight.

A constitution will put an end to Israel's anomalous place among liberal democracies, and it will demand the total separation of religion and state. It will make sure that Israel will never resemble Iran, and it will stop an untenable situation in which a growing number of Israel's citizens are educated toward democratic illiteracy and incapable of joining the workplace.

Israel's popular uprising is an outcry for human dignity. Only a constitution - a constitution that forever solidifies the core value of human dignity for all - 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 mercilessly exposed, because they will continue to serve narrow interests and work only to preserve their own power; they will 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 interests as a liberal democracy in mind. And Israel's democratic character is inevitably tied to the suffering of the middle class, whether they be mothers, young couples or students - because liberal democracy means that individuals' rights cannot be compromised.

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