Who Governs?

A regime where the concepts of truth and falsehood have become blurred is generally considered a form of government whose democratic character is steadily eroding.

Ever since Niccolo Machiavelli first waved the banner of politics' autonomy in the early 16th century, many people have perceived politics as an arena "liberated" from morality's accepted norms. However, with political life's gradual democratization in Western countries and politics' transformation into a matter for society at large, demands have grown that the use of political force be judged in accordance with moral values. An additional demand has thus emerged for a sharp distinction between truth and falsehood, and this distinction has become a hallmark of the health of a democratic system.

A regime where the concepts of truth and falsehood have become blurred is generally considered a form of government whose democratic character is steadily eroding. The fundamental issue in democracy is, naturally: Who governs?

In Israel today, immense power is concentrated in the hands of a few corporations, controversial billionaires and well-connected lawyers, rather than with the Knesset. And most Knesset members, supposedly "the people's representatives," are not elected in any kind of primary, but are appointed by party chiefs and are dependent on them.

These are the two aspects of the convenient lie that underpins political life, endangering Israeli democracy's legitimacy and future more than is apparent at first glance. Truth and falsehood are not simply "narratives," nor are they relative concepts.

They are not theoretical questions but rather fundamental components of our daily lives. By every criterion, the Second Lebanon War was a failure in its results and the way it was conducted. Yet - wonder of wonders - according to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's rhetoric, relying on his band of marionettes in the Knesset, this disaster has magically transformed into a brilliant victory for which Israel can credit the wisdom of Olmert's actions.

Olmert is creating a web of lies that is not essentially different from the one aimed at "cutting down to size" the institution of the State Comptroller's Office and the law enforcement system.

For that purpose, the current regime seeks to control power centers whose existence is based on the independence that they enjoy.

After targeting the State Prosecutor's Office, the regime is trying to convert the attorney general into a lapdog civil servant - nothing more than the government's legal counsel - and is even aspiring to destroy the chief function of the Supreme Court.

If it were declared that the Supreme Court in its capacity as the High Court of Justice hampered the regime from fulfilling its duties and that its powers had to be diminished, and if it were proclaimed that human rights were subordinate to national interests as understood and defined in the corridors of power, then an open struggle where every citizen knows what is at stake could be waged.

However that is not what Olmert and Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann are saying. They claim they merely want to reinforce and enhance the justice system's power. It has been a long time since we have seen a government here that so flagrantly insults the people's intelligence.

The height of this absurdity is, of course, the proposed legislation to allow the Knesset to reinstate a law the High Court abrogated because it ignores human rights and contravenes the principles of liberty and equality.

Unfortunately, the justice minister is not calling a spade a spade and is not admitting that he does not recognize absolute values and that, as far as he is concerned, every value system is historical and thus relative and constantly changing.

He should admit that, in his opinion, the state creates its own values and determines their content. Moreover, the justice minister, prime minister and all other ministers who think like them should confess their belief that the High Court should concentrate on the technical aspects of criminal and civil law instead of assuming the authority to determine general norms of human conduct.

These ministers are entitled to think that the High Court must not interfere with the "neighbor procedure" - the use of Palestinians as human shields - or with the location of the so-called security fence, which is turning thousands of people into prisoners in Palestinian enclaves.

They are even entitled to think that the institution of the High Court is superfluous, and they may hold political or moral views, even if they are destructive, though an open and honest debate must be conducted on such views.

On the other hand, democracy requires a resolute, public defense of its principles. Considering the current power struggle, private talks, no matter how important, will not attain the desired result and will only be interpreted, even if unjustly, as a sign of weakness.