Hebrew University President Menachem Magidor, President Moshe Katsav, and CECI founder Isaac Parviz Nazarian at the launch of the public commission this week at Beit Hanassi.Israeli President Moshe Katsav has convened 70 leading Israelis in the academic, political and judicial fields to examine alternatives to Israel’s government structure and system of elections.
The Presidential Commission for Examination of the Structure of the Government in Israel was officially launched this week at Beit Hanassi, the official Presidential residence in Jerusalem. According to committee chairperson, Hebrew University President Menachem Magidor, the committee will conduct its research within a year, and present its finding to the President and to the Knesset.
The members of the committee reads like a who’s who of Israeli history and include Israel’s fourth president Ephraim Katzir, former government ministers, present and former Knesset members, mayors, members of the judiciary, representatives of academia and other public figures, chosen in coordination with organizing body Tel Aviv University.
“I think that after 57 years the time has come for us to really assess the government. The political instability, the parliamentary crises, the national interests, the security problems and the absorption of immigrants – all these factors obligate us to assess where the current system fulfills our needs,” said Katsav, adding that many of the millions of immigrants to Israel during those 57 years came from non-democratic countries.
Katsav, as well as Magidor and David Menasheri, president of the Citizens’ Empowerment Center in Israel, an organization which spearheaded the formation of the committee, stressed that political instability represents a threat to the democratic nature of Israel.
They gave examples like in 57 years of statehood there have been 30 governments, in the last decade alone there have been five prime ministers and nine finance ministers, and in one year there had been four ministers of energy and infrastructure.
“In the whole of Israel’s history,” Menashri said, “only two governments completed a full term.”
“We’re going to go from the bottom to the top in advocating change and from the top to the bottom in influencing the leaders,” he added.
According to CECI founder Isaac Parviz Nazarian, a Los Angeles-based Israeli businessman and philanthropist, the commission will develop a system for studying and researching the different structures of governments and electoral systems in democratic countries like the U.K., Germany, the US.
“Our goal is to come up with a system to fit the character of the Israeli citizen,” he told ISRAEL21c.
“Eighty seven percent of the Israeli public believe that the Knesset does not represent them, according to a poll in a daily paper,” said Adi Sterenberg, CECI’s director. “We need to reevaluate in a thorough, brave, and comprehensive manner the customary method in which Israeli officials are elected.”
The 70-member committee has been divided into a number of sub-committees, each of which will be probing some specific issue related to democracy and presenting a report to the committee in full.
“The committee contains some of the best specialists Israel has to offer. I have given them a year to offer suggestions, recommendations, and a plan for the system of government most appropriate for Israel. I intend to present these recommendations to the Knesset as soon as I receive them,” said Katsav.
CECI board member Dora Kadisha disclosed that an international conference is being planned for December.
“We’ll be bringing over some of the best minds in the world to discuss the issues of democracy and government. And this is just the beginning,” she said.