Today on WNYC, Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight described Israel as a democracy (rebroadcast from Dec. 21), right alongside the US and Britain.
We had pretty good polling in 2012, but in the 2014 midterms the polling was not great. In other countries there have been problems, in other democracies like Israel and the United Kingdom. So there definitely is reason to worry when it’s getting harder and harder to contact people by phone.
Silver should be aware that Israel’s governing coalition is all Jewish parties, under coalition-building guidelines driven by Israel’s “security” needs that exclude Palestinian parties. The government has only once had a coalition that included Palestinian parties and that was considered weak, it didn’t last long.
Palestinians make up 20 percent of Israel’s population of 8 million, but are not represented in the government. So the Israeli system is reminiscent of the American system in the South in the 1960s and earlier, when black representation was kept at a minimum.
In the picture of Netanyahu’s cabinet from last May, above, everyone is a Jew, with the exception of one Druze politician.
The makeup of the government is why some people call Israel an ethnocracy. Government lands are controlled for the use of Jews, the immigration policy discriminates in favor of Jews, barring Palestinians who once lived in the country; and there are many other laws that make Palestinians second-class citizens.
And yes, all democracies are flawed, but what makes the Israeli claim especially dubious is that the Israeli government rules another 5 million or so Palestinians in the occupied territories who haven’t had elections in nearly ten years and cannot vote for the government that controls their lives. Altogether, the number of Jews and Palestinians under Israeli rule are roughly 6 million and 6 million; but again, only Jews are in the government (with the exception of the Druze deputy minister of regional cooperation).
By the way, Silver’s website Five Thirty Eight blew the Israeli election last year– in sharp distinction to Nate Silver nailing the American election in 2012.