Could Sharon be risking the Israeli Democracy?
By Dr. Noah Nissani
Translated by Ehud Tokatly


"There is no great share of probity necessary to support a monarchical or despotic government. ... But in a popular state one spring more is necessary, namely, virtue". (Montesquieu, "The Spirit of the Laws", Volume i, Book III, Sec. 3, Hafner Press, 1949.)

In a monarchy, aristocracy and dictatorship, all positions of real power, namely, all senior roles in the military, are held by members of the upper class or the ruling party. This was also Israel's reality during the era of the old 'Mapay' (Labour) governments. It should be remembered that one of the supporters of that regime was our current Prime Minister.

Under such conditions, a stable regime is guaranteed by sharing interests between the ruler, or the ruling group, and the people who control the actual power. But reality has changed and today the ruler cannot always rely on the unconditional support of the owners of real power.

Montesquieu, the founder of modern political science, states that the sources of authority and stability in a democratic society are virtue and fairness. It is agreed that the results of the elections would shift authority to the hands of a saxophone player from Arkansas or a cowboy from Texas. Even if they have questionable elements, only fairness and loyalty to the democratic agreement compel the people in positions of real power, the commanders of the army, who all care about the nation more than their own lives, and all "know" what is good and what is bad for the country, to accept the authority of the elected leader. This is true even if the public elects are unknown figures, who will go back to obscurity within 8 years at the most.

Montesquieu did not reach this conclusion through his fertile imagination or sharp logic, as used by Marx to produce his "Scientific Socialism", but through a twenty-year process of meticulous research, conducted with a large team of assistants. They explored the rise and fall of hundreds of regimes throughout human history.

It seems that Ariel Sharon has never read Montesquieu's writings, or perhaps he believes that nothing has changed since the days of Ben-Gurion's reign. This became evident when Sharon publicly pledged that he and everyone else would honour the results of the referendum of the Likud party members, and then he felt free to discards his promise. It became even clearer when he used his authority in a controversial manner and dismissed two ministers, for the purpose of achieving with great difficulty an artificial cabinet majority for a meaningless resolution in favour of his "disengagement" plan.

At the same time, he continues to complicate matters for Israel through negotiations with the US administration, although he knows that he has no cabinet majority for keeping his promises to President Bush. This conduct follows the affair of his own election as the Likud party's candidate for premiership, which is still under the shadow of the disappearance of some 100,000 "party members" after his victory.

There is a grave danger to Israel's democracy in Sharon's declaration, that he is determined to continue with his policies, despite the fierce objection of most of his ministers, the majority of his party members, conference delegates and members of Knesset, while breaching his promise to respect the decision of the Likud members. He claims that his actions are motivated by his concern for the country, and that he "knows" what is good for the State of Israel.

Sharon's attitude may legitimise any action that may be taken by other individuals who care about the country as much as he does, and who claim to "know" what is good for it. These people may take actions to achieve their goals against all principles of democracy.

See also:

Ze'ev Jabotinsky - The Israeli Classical Liberal Website

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