Israel takes dig at UK after its fifth election in four years: 'We have real democracy!'


    An Israeli political commentator speaking to about Israel’s fifth election in four years, which exit polls strongly suggest will see Benjamin Netanyahu make a staggering comeback to the Knesset, said that the volume of political contests in such a short space of time is a testament to the country’s strong democracy, arguing that Britain’s democratic credentials are not something the nation can be particularly proud of right now. Mr Netanyahu’s party is on the verge of a big victory in the Israeli elections and is set to replace the caretaker Government run by Yair Lapid. 

    But Mr Lapid has not had a long run, and he came after the right-wing former leader Naftali Bennett, who broke ranks and formed a coalition with Mr Netanyahu’s opponents to replace the likely incoming Prime Minister.

    This frequent shifting of leaders may appear similar to a situation that has happened on British soil following a tumultuous unfolding of events that have resulted in three different Prime Ministers this year alone. But according to Shai Bazak, an Israeli diplomat, political commentator and Government advisor, there is one big difference between the UK and Israel.

    He told in an exclusive interview: “The bottom line is to say that Israel is a democracy and all its citizens love it very much. If they are in a coalition, or the opposition, if they support Netanyahu or not. 

    “We know that Governments change, be it this Government or the next Government, this is how it works and it is real democracy. There are no arguments here like there are in the UK. We pass the power to the other one and this is how it works. We are very proud of this. Although sometimes it feels like we are a democracy on steroids, and this can be too much.”

    Mr Netanhyahu’s meteoric return has relied in part on his Lakid party forming a coalition Government with the support of the ultra-nationalist Religious Zionism party, led by Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich, who have gained a reputation for using anti-Arab rhetoric. 

    While this may be of concern in particular to the Arab population living in Israel,  Mr Ben-Gvir has promised to “work for all of Israel, even those who hate me”. 

    Meanwhile, Mr Netanyahu says he has “won a huge vote of confidence from the people of Israel”. But according to Mr Bazak, it is “less of a victory of his (Mr Netanyahu) and more a loss from the other side because of technical reasons”. 

    It is because of such technicalities in the voting system that Israeli Governments usually end up as multi-party coalitions, which some analysts would say is a marker of a strong democracy. 

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    The UK, on the other hand, has a predominantly two-party system, which, although sometimes results in coalition Governments, usually leaves one party holding power. This is even the case if the party did not necessarily get the largest proportional share of the under the First Past the Post voting system. Labour, for instance, unveiled at its party conference in Liverpool a commitment to introduce proportional representation for general elections its next manifesto.

    While it is debatable as to whether the current voting system is a sign of a strong democracy or not, there is perhaps a more obvious undemocratic red flag with regard to the political situation that the UK has found itself in, according to critics. 

    This is the fact that the last two Prime Ministers have not been voted in by the entire British public, and only the members of the Conservative Party. 

    This is also not the only aspect of British politics that several analysts have claimed signals that the UK’s status as a strong liberal democracy is waning. But the current situation has garnered calls for a general election, something opposition leader Sir Keir Starmer has campaigned for, arguing that the country cannot afford “another experiment at the top of the Tory party”.

    It came after Rishi Sunak quickly replaced Liz Truss, the shortest ever-serving Prime Minister after a disastrous few weeks in charge which involved former Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng unveiling a mini-budget that sent the markets into chaos. 

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    Critics also argued that this was undemocratic as the policies, they claimed, including a tax cut for the rich and an uncapping of bankers’ bonuses, were so radical that should have been voted on by Britons first. 

    But Dr Andrew Corbett, from the Defence Studies Department at Kings College London, has argued that Britain’s democratic credentials started to wither away before the Conservative Party started digging its own grave.

    He wrote in his report entitled ‘Is the Government actively undermining British democracy?’ that the Boris Johnson’s Government “threatened parliamentary sovereignty, the independence of the judiciary, the independence of the BBC, the individual right to trial by jury and has undermined public confidence in all institutions of governance to an extent never seen before”. 

    But one could also make the case that Israel may not in fact be as democratic as Mr Bazak has claimed. Raphael Cohen-Almagor wrote in a report published in the Berkley Center: “Israel is a Jewish democracy. The framework of governance is democratic, but its underpinning concepts give precedence to Judaism over fundamental democratic rights. Consequently, Israel adopts illiberal policies and practices that are discriminatory in nature, preferring Jews over others.”

    However, this is the opinion of the author, and whether it is fact or not is largely up for debate. Arabs, who make up roughly 21 percent of Israel’s population, have equal voting rights in the country under Israeli law.


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