Israeli Political Parties and Their Presidents for Life

Shas, Yisrael Beiteinu, Habayit Hayehudi and Yesh Atid are only a few of the parties where internal democracy is a foreign concept.

Yossi Sarid
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Finance Minister Yair Lapid, with the beard. Credit: Emil Salman
Yossi Sarid

Suddenly it’s getting into people’s heads to take on a new look like Renee Zellweger, an actress, and Yair Lapid, an actor. Both are striving to revive their glory days, whether in Hollywood or Jerusalem.

I wasn’t there when the finance minister returned from Japan to Zion, or when his party’s Knesset members were the first to behold his altered visage. But I can share with you my conviction that everyone had nothing but praise for his new beard – how it suits him and how he better not shave it off. Had he grown a tail they would have lauded that too, because tails they understand.

That’s how it is when the chairman is a chairman for life and his word is supreme in all matters, as laid out in his party’s charter. Who would tell a supreme leader what to do, and who would disobey? Have you ever heard of any disputes in Yesh Atid? Has anyone there ever been able to vote his conscience?

One MK tried, and she’ll never forget the smack she got. Now that an election is nearing, the 19 MKs will shrink to 10 or less, one out of two getting the boot, and who’d volunteer for that?

Yesh Atid isn’t alone – it’s not even the original. The system was invented by the ultra-Orthodox parties; Torah scholars pick and choose the lowly politicians who will represent them in the Knesset. You can take these parties out of the coalition but you can’t escape their methods.

The new-look Renée Zellweger, pictured on October 20, 2014, in Los Angeles.Credit: AP

Avigdor Lieberman, Naftali Bennett and Tzipi Livni are also similar to the Torah sages presiding over their courts – they pick their candidates based on obedience and fawning. Troublemakers don’t stand a chance; they might have a mind of their own at the wrong moment.

Let’s do the math: Shas, United Torah Judaism, Yisrael Beiteinu, Hatnuah, Kadima, Habayit Hayehudi and Yesh Atid — that’s more than 60 MKs whom “democtators” chose for you and in your name, a majority in the Knesset. This bootlicking without a party election has been going on for a long time.

It needs no mentioning that Israel is the only democracy in the region. Is has its shortcomings, because it’s more a democracy for Jews than Arabs. And the occupation is giving it a bit of a bad name, but it’s still a democratic oasis. Nevertheless, if our math is right, even the Jews have no reason to take pride in their parliament of puppets.

The next Knesset will only be worse. It’s already common knowledge that other party leaders, envious of their omnipotent colleagues, plan to take a similar course.

Benjamin Netanyahu is demanding the right to pick and choose too, and his people will crawl in pursuit of the vacant communications portfolio. Bennett, meanwhile, is tightening his grip on Habayit Hayehudi, and Moshe Kahlon will pick his own dream ticket for the party he forms.

They’ve all concluded that the public doesn’t really care — “they’re all the same.” In the 20th Knesset you’ll get what you deserve — five or six heads and more than 80 tails. Even in the “new” Histadrut labor federation, power is transferred by inheritance, making us miss the old system.

A tail, as is well known, is only a redundant appendage to a spine. For example, with one wag the cabinet approved a budget whose flaws were clear to everyone. The ministers of social affairs, education and health had no right to cry out. It’s hard to understand why supposedly serious people are willing to debase themselves and be enslaved forever to their bearded master.. '

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