Israel's Elected Officials Nobody Seems to Have Elected

Only the Likud and Labor parties still believe in the ballot box. Yet everyone knows that funny things can happen inside these boxes before the voting slips inside them are counted.

The disenchanted Kadima politicos register their anger: Mofaz doesn't consult with us, nor does he brief us. But Dalia Itzik winks, and gives out a hint: she knew something.

They can only complain about themselves: from the start, they agreed to park in the Knesset and emerge from a vehicle devoid of any substance. Ariel Sharon plucked them one by one, and each joined Kadima as a lone wolf. As a group, they have nothing to offer; had they not gotten on their knees, and crawled as imploring beggars, they would have never received spots on Kadima's Knesset list.

It's hard to get elected legitimately into the Knesset. For a party to send representatives to the parliament, some 70,000 citizens have to wake up one morning resolved to vote for a particular candidate. During the next national elections, when the threshold number of votes is raised, a party will have to receive 100,000 votes to get any Knesset representation, and each Knesset seat will be equal to 30,000 votes; and who, in this chorus of Kadima whiners, is really worth 30,000 votes?

That question does not apply solely to Kadima; other parties are crowded with politicians who have no constituency, who are elected officials bereft of anyone who ever wanted to elect them. If Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East, it is a democracy where strings are pulled: foreign observers would never authorize and validate elections in which so many candidates are hand-picked by party bosses.

Since they were never elected by a recognizable electorate, they don't owe anyone any sort of commitment. The process of sorting out and choosing candidates is controlled and privatized in a way that the politicians come and go, and the public is left without a say in the matter.

Take out a pen and paper, and do the math. Yisrael Beiteinu Knesset members are marionettes in Avigdor Lieberman's theater; whoever does not show absolute fidelity to the leader has no hope of serving in parliament. Shas MKs are pawns in the hands of the venerable rabbi, and woe to those who do not heed his wishes. From the start, MKs from Atzmaut turned their party's name into a Hebrew oxymoron - Atzmaut means Independence, and MKs who serve in this party have anything but that.

The same things can be said about United Torah Judaism, National Union and the other parties - the common denominator uniting elected officials from these parties is that they have no constituency and serve at their bosses' bidding.

That's the picture emerging from the Knesset - the parliament is loaded to the gills with elected officials nobody ever elected, and the next Knesset is only going to be more twisted and contorted. The future is shaping up.

Yair Lapid learned from his rivals, and decided to do in Rome like the Romans do: He will have his own select coterie of flunkies. Everyone will be dependent upon him, from his personal make-up assistant to his party accountant. Like the other bosses, this invincible leader will, on his own, decide whether the party joins a future coalition and who gets a ministerial portfolio.

Meantime, the ailing Kadima party is considering scrapping primaries and reinstating the backroom party convention method, which is cherished by the bosses. In this way, the next Knesset will become an innovative political entity comprised mostly of political leeches.

Only the Likud and Labor parties still believe in the ballot box. Yet everyone knows that funny things can happen inside these boxes before the voting slips inside them are counted. Campaign staff members, settlers, Druze and many others spend their days persuading future voters, and their nights finding creative ways to gain an advantage. I have never been able to fathom why putatively serious people are willing to stand in the shadow of bosses who cast no shadows.

Matan Vilnai is just one example: Why does he allow himself to join a group of obsequious courtiers? "I know how to smell Ehud Barak's sweat,' he admitted this week; who knows what else he sniffs on his patron's body. They've said that Vilnai runs away from hard political situations and travels overseas - that's ridiculous, he doesn't run from the heat in the kitchen, he just butters up the cook.

Knesset Speaker Ruby Rivlin recently issued a call to "replace the MKs and chose more suitable delegates." How exactly are we to follow his advice when the delegates are chosen for us beforehand? Before anyone changes Israel's electoral system, perhaps someone should take steps to ensure that we have real, not virtual, elections, in which we choose candidates made out of flesh and blood, not straw.