Sunday, November 23, 2014

How to repair the Israel Labor Party

This is my four point program for restoring the Israeli Labor party to a position of influence in Israeli politics. At present the party which used to dominate Israeli politics holds 19 of the 120 seats in the Knesset. I haven't discussed the issues which I regard as important as I don't think the problem is purely one of issues, though of course selecting the right issues would help.

1. Make Your Presence Felt (outside the Knesset)
Labor needs to maintain constant contact with its voters - not just its activists - so that its leaders can develop a feel for what people want and can be seen to be out there connecting to people, not just turning up at election time.  Activists are key here in that they are the people who provide the interface between the party and voters.  The great advantage of religious groups in this respect is that places of worship provide an excellent base for recruiting activists and disseminating ideas. The internet can be an excellent substitute for places of worship but it needs to be about more then just issuing Facebook status updates and it needs to be one of a number of tactics.

2. Indirect Leadership Elections.
This may sound odd, but imitating the USA practise of direct election of party leaders is bad for Israeli democracy. The principle reason is that running as a candidate is very expensive and not subject to meaningful financial controls so it provides a way for Israel's super-rich to "run" candidates and ensure that the people they want win elections.  It would be better to have activists vote for regional boards which then elect a national executive that chooses the leadership annd candidates.  Basically a two phase tiered system giving the grass roots some control over the election process but reducing the need for huge funds to get elected while rewarding dedication and hard work and also ensuring that the best - not the most popular - people win.

3. Russian Voters.
The Israeli left has abandoned Russian immigrants to Lieberman. Winning Russian votes is not just about winning hearts and minds its, about connecting to "progressive" Russian figureheads and giving them prominent and influential roles in the Party hierarchy so that Russian voters can see they are represented and so that the issues that affect them, such as converisons, weddings, drug abuse programs etc. are properly discussed.

4. Ehud Barak.
I know no one likes him, that he puts his own interests before the party and that he doesn't care about economics or social justice but the truth is that he is probably the only Labor leader who can unseat Netanyahu.  So the party needs to structure itself so that if Barak can be leader but can't control economic policy and can't determine party structure.

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