Monday, December 12, 2005

Sharon on democracy: "I know what is good for the people"

[Published in the Jerusalem Post Letters, Friday December 9]

Sharon and Ben Gurion's "great virtue"

To the editor:

The CEO of an Israeli company once told me “I know what the market needs”, rejecting the input of the regional managers gathered to help the company decide on new products and directions. Hubris, and the absence of any understanding of the need for the company to cater to its markets, led to disaster. The company collapsed.

Ariel Sharon, like the vast majority of Israeli leaders – many of whom came from military backgrounds where orders are handed down and obeyed – clearly has no understanding of democracy. “I do not know what the people want. I know what is good for the people,” Sharon quoted Ben Gurion approvingly this week, calling this Ben Gurion’s “great virtue”.

And there you have it: a democracy not “of the people, by the people, for the people” but rather led by an autocrat who is not interested in the public will. An unflattering comparison can be made with Abu Mazen’s comment the day before that he views the Fatah primaries as “guidance” but non-binding on his choice of candidates for the January PLC elections.

Which of course recalls Sharon’s ignoring the referendum he held in his own Likud party which rejected his unilateral Gaza withdrawal, not to mention Sharon’s disregarding the overwhelming mandate he received in 2002 to oppose Mitzna’s unilateral withdrawal plan.

As long as Israel’s leaders continue to define democracy as “If I have a majority I can do what I want” – from Rabin’s 61-vote passage of Oslo bought with 2 key Knesset members acting in clear conflict with the mandates they received for the Tzomet party platform, through Sharon’s firing cabinet ministers to assure a majority for Gaza withdrawal – we will all suffer from their use of legal but anti-democratic maneuvers to pursue their policies without real legitimacy.

As Evelyn Gordon pointed out earlier this week, what can we expect if we reward their reneging on campaign promises and ignoring democratic principles (and their corruption) with reelection?

This sort of hubris, and the absence of any real understanding of the social and cultural norms which form the basis for any democratic system, define ours as an immature democracy at best – and may lead to disaster in more ways than one.

Aryeh Green
Beit Shemesh

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