Wednesday, December 28, 2005

December 2005

Dear friends and colleagues,

This has been a painful and fascinating month. The Likud is stabilized after the election of Bibi Netanyahu to leadership. Among certain parts of the public, Bibi has not lost his charm. He is fighting with Labour for the position of the second largest party in the house. "Kadima" goes kadima (forward), from strength to strength, despite Sharon's weight and health, and the rivalry between Olmert and Livni over second place on the list. The adrenaline is pumping. Interesting times indeed.

Attack on Netanya, Peres, Peretz, Sharon, Mofaz, Yossi Sarid, Dying Patient Bill, Haifa Conference, European Journalism Fellowships in Berlin, Freedom in the World 2006, Charas, New Books

Attack on Netanya

On December 5, 2005 at least five people were killed and more than 50 others were wounded, including four seriously, when a suicide bomber blew himself up around 11:30 A.M. at the entrance to Hasharon shopping mall in Netanya. He tried to enter the mall but luckily was spotted by passersby after he raised their suspicions. Two policemen at the scene pulled out their guns and ordered him to halt and to take his hands out of his pockets. At that stage, he blew himself up. One of the security guards was killed and the the policemen were wounded. Islamic Jihad took responsibility for the attack. The group later identified the attacker as 21-year-old Lutfi Amin Abu Salem, from the village of Kafr Rai, located between the West Bank towns of Jenin and Tul Karm.The group has perpetrated all four previous suicide bombings carried out since a joint cease-fire declaration last February. It has said it reserves the right to retaliate for any perceived Israeli violations.In a statement released by his office, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas condemned the attack, and vowed to punish those responsible. The attack was the first suicide bombing in Israel since October 26, when a bomber killed six people in Hadera, just north of Netanya.

On the same day that the suicide bombing took place in Netanya, several sources reported that PA President Mahmoud Abbas had signed a law that will give regular stipends of at least $250/month to families of “martyrs,” which includes suicide bombers.

The allocations will be paid from the budget of the Palestinian Authority via the Martyrs’ Families and Injured Care Establishment, which is directly responsible to the PA Social Welfare Department. Some of this money comes from international donations.
Source: first edition of "Inside the PA," a weekly on-line publication


On November 30, 2005 Shimon Peres announced he was ending his political activity in the Labour Party and would support Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in the upcoming March elections.Peres stated that Sharon was the appropriate person to head a coalition of peace and security. He said he was supporting Sharon as the person who had the best chance of restarting the peace process with the Palestinians. "In my opinion, the appropriate person to head the coalition that will bring peace is Arik Sharon," he said at a special press conference that he convened. "My party activities have concluded," he added."I held talks with him [Sharon] and I am convinced that he is determined to continue the peace process. I was informed that he is open to creative ideas to attain peace and security. I have decided to support him in the elections and to cooperate with him in attaining these goals." "This is a difficult day for me in which I ask myself: What is the central issue standing before the state of Israel in the coming years and at present? I have no doubt that it is the unavoidable combination of peace and diplomatic advances. I ask myself how I can contribute in the coming years, and the answer is by advancing the peace process that will contribute to a thriving economy and social justice.""It was not easy but I made the choice and decided," Peres, 82, said on his decision to leave the party he has been a member of for 46 years. This step was hardly surprising. Peres feels he has a lot to contribute to the nation. He cannot retire. He needs the constant activity, and does not know any other way of life. Politics is everything for him, the only profession he ever had. He symbolizes the politician-as-profession paradigm. Hence, when Amir Peretz offered him the party presidency, and to close the party list for the Knesset, in the 120th place, Peres felt as if someone wishes to close a chapter that for him is still viable. This chapter lasted all his life. Peretz wanted to end his active, professional life, when he was not yet ready. Peres opted for an assured second place, and a promise to be a significant minister if Labour is part of the next coalition government. Peretz refused, while Sharon was apparently willing to pledge Peres an office in the next government, if he will be elected prime minister.

A few days before he took the decision, I faxed Shimon a personal letter, urging him to join Sharon. I saw his own good, and the nation's best interests that here coincide nicely. Peres made the right decision. It will be a fine finale for an impressive career.

Peres, in a personal letter, answered that my "warm words that came from the heart" penetrated his heart, and that he did what was necessary to do. Indeed, "it was difficult to reach the decision to leave the party in which I acted for decades". However, in the final analysis, the result matters and "I support Ariel Sharon who could promote peace according to the vision and way that have been leading me for a long time".

Reminder: this was not the first time he has left Labour. When his mentor David Ben-Gurion left Mapai to establish Rafi, Peres went along with him. Later he returned. Now, apparently, he has left for good. He left for partisan interests, to continue kicking. In his heart, he will always remain Labour. I think all leaders of the party, present and future, know this and will cherish his contribution as long as Labour exists.


Amir Peretz might regret his insulting proposals to Peres. Peres is an electoral force. Never a winner, but he does have followers, and he does enjoy the appreciation of many circles within the Israeli public. He could certainly have helped Labour to compete against "Kadima". I hope Peretz’s campaigning behaviour which advances mainly his own people will not lead to the ousting of other gifted people.

The negative media of Peretz' brutal moves against members of his own party had an immediate effect on the public. Polls published by Maariv on November 7, 2005 showed that Labour lost four mandates in ten days, from 28 seats to 24 seats. On November 23, the polls said that Labour's popular support will now send only 19 MKs to the house. Sharon, on the other hand, retains his power and even improved his party’s position: up by one to three seats: 39-42. Likud, under Netanyahu: 15 seats but going up. Of course, it’s a long way until the election and the picture might change significantly a few times during the next few months.

Amir Peretz lacks charisma and alienates certain sectors. It seems that he is especially weak among the elderly Ashkenazi voters who cannot connect to his character and appearance. Many people simply do not appreciate his leadership abilities. If Sharon were to say the same things Peretz is saying, his popularity would grow because people believe he has the ability to translate words into deeds. With Peretz, people do not believe he has such abilities.


Some generals prefer the company of maps to the company of their soldiers. I use to think this of Sharon. But apparently 70 year-old generals have a different world view than 40 year-old generals. I sincerely hope that Sharon will not waste time after the elections and will invest all his bulldozing power to implement the road map, as he declares now. Israel needs to end the occupation, as soon as possible, and work for the establishment of a democratic Palestinian state alongside Israel.

On Sunday, December 18, 2005, Prime Minister Sharon was rushed to the medical center's trauma unit Sunday evening after suffering a minor stroke and briefly losing consciousness. Dr. Yuval Weiss, deputy manager of the Hadassah University Hospital, Ein Karem, told reporters that "initial tests indicate that the prime minister has undergone a mild stroke and his condition improved during the tests. The prime minister was fully conscious during the test." Weiss maintained: "He is now talking with his relatives and members of his office. The prime minister will remain in hospital for further tests and monitoring".

Sharon's health immediately became a media, political and public concern. "Kadima" was built around him and is popular thanks to him. Sharon is the oldest prime minister to serve Israel. He is obese and limps due an injury dating from the 1948 War of Independence. But, except for the removal of the stones in his urinary system, very little has been known regarding his medical record.Last February the prime minister underwent treatment at the Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer to remove stones in his urinary system. His scheduled meeting on that day, including talks with U.S. officials in the run-up to the disengagement, were canceled. On the morning of the treatment, the Prime Minister's Office released an official statement on his health condition, in order to stem the expected rumor mill.Sharon is not the first prime minister to be rushed to the hospital due to a health scare. The media that follow Sharon 24 hours a day immediately reported about the event and tried to reveal all possible details as soon as possible, asking private questions, speculating, and mostly asking unclever questions ("How does Sharon feel?"; a few hours after a stroke, the answer must be: "Great, thanks for asking. He is playing football with the doctors"). The tension between the right to privacy and the public's right to know emerged with all its vitality. The public has the right to know the condition of its leader, but it cannot be a pretext for asking a short time after the incident to open medical files and reveal details that even Sharon's close family members do not know. Patience is a virtue to be maintained.


When Mofaz saw that his chances to win the Likud leadership were slim, according to the polls, on December 11, 2005 the Defense Minister quit the Likud and joined Sharon's "Kadima". Mofaz trailed far behind front-runner Benjamin Netanyahu and runner up Silvan Shalom in opinion polls.The reward is attractive: Mofaz received a pledge that he will continue to serve in the defense post in the next government as well, should Sharon be re-elected prime minister in the March 28 elections.To recall: Mofaz had turned down a request by Sharon to join him only a few weeks ago, when the prime minister quit the party, bringing with him a number of senior Likud figures. Opportunism rules supreme in Israeli politics. Sharon destroyed all the conventional party lines and transformed our politics. The question is whether this will be for the long run or only for the short run, one election.

The defection of Mofaz follows the surprise announcement last week of the decision by then-acting Likud chairman and Likud Central Committee chair Tzachi Hanegbi to move to "Kadima". Hanegbi is involved in a few corruption affairs but still is considered a desirable asset to Sharon. Sharon says he trusts him. Well, this is important, I guess.Mofaz's dramatic announcement drew reaction from all across the political spectrum. Likud primary candidate Yisrael Katz said Mofaz gave in to polls, and that he found it strange how a man who had criticized Sharon and "Kadima"'s foreseeable policies, decides to join a rival party. "I personally regret this," Katz said. "It is amazing to see how one poll in a weekend paper causes all the plans to change. We live in a reality where the polls and the public are more crucial from positions." He maintained: Mofaz has shown himself to be "a politician with no principles, who calculates where his situation will be better."

Mofaz apparently did not believe the Likud will be able to collect itself and resume the leadership role it had in Israeli politics. He thought the Likud will not survive Sharon's "Big Bang". In effect, many of the Likud leaders have moved to "Kadima". Sharon builds the second Likud as an alternative to the original, inserting his people into key positions, and replacing the brand name Likud with "Kadima". Amazing. Only a few weeks ago Likud was the best brand name in town, a synonym for success. Now, over the past few weeks it is all sellers, no buyers. Netanyahu is now halting this process and trying to reverse the trend. He tries to recruit "big names" to his party.

Yossi Sarid

After forty years in politics, and thirty two years in the Knesset, Yossi Sarid announced that he closed the political chapter in his life. He is going home. In 1984, when Labour decided to join the coalition government with the Likud under Yitzhak Shamir, Sarid left the party, fully aware of the price that he was paying. If he had any aspirations to become prime minister, he knew that he gave them up when he left Labour to join a leftist, small party, Ratz (the Civil Rights Party). For similar reasons, on the same day that Yossi left for Ratz, I left Labour to join Mapam, the socialist party. I was always against coalition governments that put Labour and Likud together, thinking that democracy needs a strong opposition to the same extent that it needs a strong government, even more so as the corruption level in Israel continues to grow.

At a later point, Mapam and Ratz joined together and Meretz was established. Sarid became the leader, succeeding Shulamit Aloni, and he served as the party's leader until the last elections. Sarid was one of the most clever MKs in the history of the country. He always tried to be true to his conscience. He voiced unpopular views when he believed in them. He was willing to pay a high price for his convictions. He never saw politics as a beauty salon, and I assume that Niccolo Machiavelli 's Prince was never his idol. Politics was for him a means to an end, never an end in itself. Hypocrisy he dreaded while cynicism he adopted as a defence mechanism. Yossi was, still is, a great orator, a learned person, who kept his hands clean, and his heart true to his values. I will miss him.

Sarid plans to teach and to write books. I wrote him that I await reading what he has to say. Yossi owes me one chapter…

Dying Patient Bill

On December 6, 2005 The Dying Patient Bill was approved by the Knesset after a long and tiring legislation process. Some 60 people took part in drafting the law (2000-2002). Then several legislative committees within the government’s pertinent offices, and Knesset committees, debated every section of this detailed law for a further three years. This in order to ensure the law is in line with Jewish Law, and that it balances two principles: The sanctity of life and honoring a person's will. The process that started in 2000 came to an end this month, after more than five years of work.

The law applies only to patients who have specifically expressed a wish to end their lives, or to those whose illness causes suffering and pain.

It stipulates that a dying patient is a person who suffers from an incurable illness and who has no more than six months to live, or a person whose vital systems have ceased functioning and that physicians estimate has less than two weeks to live.

The bill goes on to specify the means to guarantee that patients have explicitly wished to die. In instances where no instructions have been left, a guardian or a person close to the patient will be allowed to make a statement regarding her or his will.

The law further stipulates that minors under the age of 17 will be represented by their parents on the issue of ceasing treatment. If a conflict between the parents and the physician arises, a committee will rule on the matter.

This is definitely a very important legislative step in the right direction. I should note I was the only person among the 60 Committee members who advocated physician-assisted suicide. My reservation and proposal for PAS appears in the minority addition to the draft law. Yet it is satisfying to see years of work translated into a law. It is a very comprehensive law, and it reflects the consensus in Israel.

The law will come into effect in a year's time, and the Ministry of Health and hospitals will begin preparations for its application.

Health Minister Danny Naveh described the passing of the law as a historic moment, saying: "This is one of the most important laws passed by the Knesset. It represents major moral values for the terminally ill and their families."

Professor Avraham Steinberg, who headed the Committee, deserves praise for his tireless efforts over the past five years to draft the law, and to somewhat improve the situation of dying patients who wish to have some control over their lives, and some part in the decision-making process concerning their treatment at the end of life. He did a magnificent job, trying to bridge between orthodox and ultra-orthodox views on the one hand, and liberal views on the other. His tolerance, patience, and the atmosphere he projected of respect to all people and all views proved to be rewarding. The policy adopted by all committee members, in general, not to involve the media in the process, and to involve politicians only after the draft law was complete, was also prudent. Kudos to Avraham. Yishar Koach.

Haifa Conference

The Conference Freedom of Speech In Light of Prime Minister Sharon's Disengagement Plan (Gaza First Plan) that was held at the University of Haifa on Tuesday, 20 December 2005, was interesting and thought-provoking as it promised to be. Eran Shendar gave quite an impressive opening lecture, and the other lectures were also knowledgable and innovative. Those who read Hebrew may find interest in

European Journalism Fellowships in Berlin

Journalists from across Europe and the United States are invited to apply for the European Journalism-Fellowships, offered this year for the 8th time by the Journalisten-Kolleg of the Free University of Berlin. Participants are given the opportunity to take a two-semester leave from their professional positions and spend a sabbatical year at the Freie Universitaet, widening their knowledge while pursuing a major research project. At the same time, the programme enables participants to network with professional colleagues from Eastern and Western Europe and the United States. The programme starts in October 2006 and ends in July 2007. Highly qualified journalists in either staff positions or freelance employment with several years of professional experience are eligible to apply. Written proof certifying good knowledge of the German language is required for participation (Geothe Institut, DAAD). The most important element of the fellowship application is a proposal for a scientific-journalistic project to be pursued in Berlin. We offer the following fellowships:

Junior-Fellowships for journalists from Central and Eastern Europe with about five years of professional experience. One of the stipends is specifically dedicated to a young female business journalist from Central or Eastern Europe. Junior Fellows receive a monthly stipend of between 800 and 975 Euros for the duration of ten months.

Standard-Fellowships endowed with a monthly stipend of between 1,100 and 1,500 Euros - depending on the level of professional experience (at least 5 years) - for the duration of ten months. One of the stipends is specifically dedicated to a journalist from Central and Eastern Europe focusing on business and finance journalism.

Abgeordnetenhaus of Berlin Foundation Scholarship
One outstanding journalist from one of the former Allied Nations of the Second World War (CIS-States, France, Great Britain, USA) may be awarded an extraordinary scholarship from the Abgeordnetenhaus of Berlin (Berlin State Parliament) Foundation (a monthly stipend of 1,300 Euros). Applicants for this scholarship must meet the requirements for the European Journalism Fellowships and, in addition, must submit a review of their research proposal by an expert scientist or professor. Please note that the closing date for application for this scholarship will be January 20, 2006.

The European Journalism Fellowships of the Journalisten-Kolleg at the Free University of Berlin has established itself as an important institution for journalists at the European level. For the future of European integration, especially the convergence of Eastern and Western Europe, it will be increasingly important for journalists to have specific knowledge about their neighbouring countries, to have international contacts, and to become versed in different cultures. Our aim is to support the professional and personal development of journalists in this spirit.

Since 1999, 76 journalists from 27 nations have benefited from the opportunity to spend a sabbatical year of research in Berlin through a European Journalism Fellowship. Major media companies have granted leaves of absence to journalists for participation in the EJF programme. Over the years, a close network of journalism has emerged among alumni.

Renowned media enterprises and foundations are funding the programme, in cooperation with the Freie Universitaet Berlin. Current sponsors include the FAZIT-Foundation (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung), the Haniel-Foundation and the Foundation Presse-Haus NRZ, as well as four major political foundations: the Friedrich-Ebert-Foundation, the Hanns-Seidel-Foundation, the Konrad-Adenauer-Foundation, and the Heinrich-Böll-Foundation,.

The closing deadline for applications is January 31, 2006.

For more detailed information and application forms please contact:

Telefon: +49 / 30 / 8385-33 15
Telefax: +49 / 30 / 8385-33 05
European Journalism Fellowships
Freie Universität Berlin
Otto-von-Simson-Str. 3
D - 14195 Berlin

Freedom in the World 2006

Freedom in the World 2006, an annual global survey of political rights and civil liberties in more than 190 countries worldwide, was released December 19, 2005, by Freedom House (, an independent, nongovernmental organization that promotes political and civil liberties, religious freedom, and democracy through advocacy, training, and research.

Freedom in the World survey is widely used and cited by journalists, activists, government officials, and scholars. The results of this year’s survey are summarized in a fourteen-page report containing graphs, charts, and tables showing the current state of political freedom plus global trends. The heart of the report is its annual listing of independent countries with numerical scores for their political rights and civil liberties, plus a Freedom House rating of each country as Free, Partly Free, or Not Free. Visit for the document.

Also available (at is an eleven-page essay by Arch Puddington, director of research at Freedom House, summarizing the most important findings of this year’s survey; plus an accompanying press release (

Among the positive developments emerging from the new survey was a measurable improvement in the extent of freedom in several key Arab countries (such as Lebanon and Egypt) and in the Palestinian Authority. The report also found that the number of countries rated as Not Free declined from 49 in 2004 to 45 for the year 2005, the “lowest number of Not Free societies identified by the survey in over a decade.”

The report found that twenty-seven countries and one territory showed gains, making this year one of the most successful for freedom since Freedom House began measuring it in 1972. According to the report, there are now eighty-nine Free countries, fifty-eight Partly Free countries, and forty-five Not Free countries.

Freedom House will also publish Freedom in the World 2006 in a much more complete book format in summer 2006, when the summary tables will be complemented by narrative country reports.

I thank Tom Skladony for this valuable information.


We miss you!!

New Books

Valerie Alia and Simone Bull, MEDIA AND ETHNIC MINORITIES (Edinburgh University Press). Further information is available on the Edinburgh University Press website.

Cecilia von Feilitzen (ed.), Young People, Soap Operas and Reality TV. Yearbook 2004 Nordicom, 2004, 255 p. - ISBN 91-89471-28-8, (Yearbooks) - ISSN 1403-4700

I urge you to purchase the books.

With my very best wishes for a beautiful festive season, and Happy 2006!!


My last communications are available on http://almagor.blogspot.comEarlier posts at my home page:
Books archived at
Center for Democratic Studies

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

November 2005

Dear friends and colleagues,

This has been a fascinating month. People who appreciate and are interested in politics enjoyed every minute. Quite a treat. It seems that we will have a good fight, after some years of boredom. Sharon v. Peretz. The future of the Likud is obscure. The Likud claims the future of Sharon is bleek. Anyway, the adrenaline is pumping. Interesting times indeed.

Sharon, House of Lords for Israel, Amir Peretz, Elections, Riots in France, The Scope of Tolerance, Right-wing Extremism in Europe, Conference: Freedom of Speech In Light of Prime Minister Sharon's Disengagement Plan (Gaza First Plan)


On November 7 I wrote: Sharon's leadership is crumbling. On November 7, 2005 the Knesset plenum voted 71-41 to approve the appointments of Vice Prime Minister Ehud Olmert as finance minister and Matan Vilnai (Labor) as science and technology minister. Olmert replaced Netanyahu after Bibi's resignation more than three months ago, and only now was confirmed as Minister of Finance.

Sharon was forced to submit Olmert's appointment separately after facing strong opposition, from his party as well as from other parties, that sabotaged his attempt to enlarge his expensive government further, far beyond necessary, by appointing two of his loyal servants - Roni Bar-On as industry, trade and employment minister, and Ze'ev Boim as immigrant absorption minister.

Knesset members from all the opposition parties voted against the appointments package, as did former finance minister Benjamin Netanyahu and seven Likud anti-disengagement rebels - MKs Naomi Blumenthal, Yuli Edelstein, Ayoub Kara, Uzi Landau, David Levy, Michael Ratzon and Ehud Yatom.Sharon was compelled to convene the Knesset meeting because Olmert's term as acting finance minister was about to expire, and the Basic Law: The Government, does not allow for the post to be extended or for someone other than the acting finance minister to be appointed without Knesset approval. Even Sharon himself cannot become acting finance minister without Knesset approval.Likud MKs Gilad Erdan, Moshe Kahlon and Yuval Steinitz did not participate in the vote, while party rebels Michael Gorlovsky, Leah Ness and Yehiel Hazan voted for the appointments.


For the past months there were many talks about the possibility that he might resign from his party and establish a new party. I thought the likelihood for such a drastic step was small.

On November 21, 2005 Prime Minister Ariel Sharon met with President Moshe Katsav to request that the 16th Knesset be dissolved and early elections held. The move comes ahead of his expected announcement that he is quitting the Likud and establishing a new centrist party.The president said after the meeting that Sharon had told him he had come to the conclusion that it is impossible for him to carry on as prime minister with the current Knesset. Katsav said he would make a quick decision on Sharon's request after consulting Attorney General Menachem Mazuz, and added that an early election appears inevitable in the current political climate.Katsav said the law gave him 21 days to decide, but that he would do so quickly. Asked whether the decision would be made within days, he replied, "less than days.""Of course, I think we need to dissolve the Knesset and hold elections as soon as possible," he added. Indeed, the decision came soon enough. Katsav accepted Sharon's plea. Elections are scheduled for March 28, 2006.Dissolving the Knesset serves Sharon's interest since it would prevent the Likud from putting off elections until a later date, by which time the new party's novelty would likely wear off.Sharon's new party has attracted 14 Likud MKs, including Finance Minister Ehud Olmert, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, and Ministers Avraham Hirschson, Meir Sheetrit and Gideon Ezra. MKs Roni Bar-On, Eli Aflalo, Ruhama Avraham, Zeev Boim, Yaakov Edrey and Majali Wahabi also joined Sharon. Haim Ramon of Labour, presently Minister within the Prime Minister office, left Labour to join the new party. Dalia Itzik, of Labour, followed him.Numerous non-Likud personalities were also reportedly planning to stand with the prime minister, including former Shin Bet chief Avi Dichter, Professor Uriel Reichman and former minister Dan Meridor, who has expressed a desire to return to politics.Vice Premier Shimon Peres, who in long talks with Sharon regarding future cooperation, will not leave the Labor Party to join Sharon's new party, Peres' aides said. I'd say this very much depends on what Shaon, on the one hand, and Labour on the other, will offer Peres. He will be wise to join Sharon. Shimon is a doer. He could do more with Sharon than with Peretz.

Likud officials said the new party would be a "true centrist party, from every perspective: political, economic and social."Following Sharon's departure, Likud Central Committee chairman Tzachi Hanegbi will be the interim party chairman. Israel Radio reported he will convene the Likud Central Committee in order to vote for a new chairman.The list of leadership contenders includes MK Benjamin Netanyahu, MK Uzi Landau - the leader of the so-called Likud "rebels," Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom and MK Yisrael Katz. From the Likud's perspective, Sharon's step is drastic and has the potential of a significant setback, working to the benefit of Labour. I can offer the following explanations for Sharon's decision: He was fed up with the rebels within his own party that sabotaged his leadership and tied his hands. He wanted to show them they have a lot to lose. He does too, but he is willing to take the risk. He might lose his office. He is taking quite a gamble.

Second, Sharon is seriously heading to make important decisions regarding settlements and borders. Remember: It is Gaza First, not Gaza Last. With the rebels it was very difficult for him to carry out even this first, much needed, step. He realized that his chances to make larger concessions are not high if he stays with the Likud.

Third, considering his age, this new party will stand for election only once. Like many similar parties, it is quite likely to dissolve after or during one term. For Sharon, if he will remain prime minister, this would be his farewell party. If the speculations about his plans to end (or limit) the occupation, evacuating settlements, and bring about the formation of a Palestinian state in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip are true, I wish him the best of luck and salute his courage.

Time will tell whether this decision was prudent from Sharon's point of view. It certainly opened a new ball game for Labour, and for the peace camp. Only a few months ago people saw the Likud as the party of the future, in terms of at least a decade to come. Now the picture is very different. Israeli politics is one of the most interesting and volatile political arenas in the world. Never a dull moment.

House of Lords for Israel

I have great appreciation for the British tradition and logic. Luckily, in their brief historical presence in Israel they were able to establish quite a few things that we still cherish these days. Unfortunately, they did not take care to establish a House of Lords, and we are paying the price. However, it is not late to resolve the problem.

Some people never retire. No matter how old they are; no matter what subtle hints, loud signs and bright signals they receive, they simply are incapable of retiring. I mean: they have been in a certain sphere all their lives. What else do they know to do? Moreover, because they do not wish to retire, in their old age it is difficult to adopt new habits. Human inclinations and fallacies. The fact that they block and hinder the possibilities of younger people to enter their field, and replace them means very little to them. This is, for sure, not THEIR problem. These “tycoons” are, in their own eyes, greater than life, and nobody will ever be capable to replace them anyway, so why bother? And because they worked all their lives to gain power, their ability to destroy is very high.

The sensible British recognized all that and established the House of Lords exactly for these kinds of people – those who belong to what I call "The anti-retirement Age". They need not retire. We all can continue to admire them in the House of Lords. They still gain respect, they do not fade away, they have something to do, and they are willing to move from one house to another. Some claim that the carpets in the House of Lords are nicer, the seats are more comfortable, the colours are more appealing (I subscribe) and your prefix is much more reputable. I mean, just think that Ms. Thatcher would be still around as a politician. A frightening possibility. How sensible the British are indeed. I applaud them.

And we, without a House of Lords, or Sanhedrin, or whatever name you pick for this sensible institution, are stuck with leaders in their eighties, and boyish leaders who are merely seventy years old. We did not build another house for them as we should. And we suffer the consequences. It is not too late: I call for an Israeli House of Lords Now!!

Amir Peretz

On November 9, 2005 three people competed for the Labour's leadership: Shimon Peres; Head of the Histadrut Amir Peretz, and Fuad Ben-Eliezer, a former general that has high esteem for himself. It was clear that the struggle would be between Peres and Peretz. Peres symbolizes the status quo. Peretz symbolizes change. The voting result, which came at the following dawn, followed a tightly-run race between the two opponents, which initially showed a slight lead for Peres. Peretz, a fiery union leader, wants to steer the party back to its socialist roots, pull out of the coalition and force early elections. His message has resonated with Israelis disenfranchised by government cuts in social spending and the country's growing gap between rich and poor.
Peretz's personal profile is almost identical to that of millions of Israelis who immigrated to Israel or were born here after its establishment. A son of Moroccan immigrants, who was raised in a southern development town and reached his position with great toil, and made his way to the top. It is ironic that it was the new immigrants of the 1950s and 1960s who voted for Labor and made it stronger against the right, led at the time by Menachem Begin. The Likud's rise to power in 1977 drew the low-income sectors away from the Labor Party, and it has been ambling behind Likud ever since.

Shortly after 6 A.M., amid cheering from Peretz's supporters, Labor Secretary-General Eitan Cabel announced that Peretz had won with 42.35 percent of the votes, while Peres was backed by 39.96 percent of voters. In third place was Benjamin Ben Eliezer, with 16.82 percent of the vote.

This month Israel commemorates ten years since the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Speaking near the grave of Rabin at the Mount Hertzl cemetery in Jerusalem, Peretz stressed that reaching a peace accord with the Palestinians is at the top of his political priority list. "We will not rest until we reach a permanent agreement (with the Palestinians) that would secure a safe future for our children and that would provide us with renewed hope to live in a region where people lead a life of cooperation and not, God forbid, where blood is shed from time to time," Peretz said.

On November 12, 2005 former president Bill Clinton, in an emotional address delivered meters from the site where Yitzhak Rabin was slain 10 years ago, urged some 100,000 people gathered in Tel Aviv late Saturday to take up Rabin's peacemaking and "see it through to the end."After receiving a last-minute invitation to the rally, newly-elected Labor Party Chairman Amir Peretz said in his speech that "the path of Oslo is still very much alive."The Oslo peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, led by Rabin and then-deputy prime minister and foreign minister Shimon Peres, "is Israel's future and hope," said Peretz. "I have a dream that one day Israeli and Palestinian children will play together," he said, echoing Rev. Martin Luther King but shifting his context to his hometown Sderot and the neighboring Gaza Strip town of Beit Hanoun."Violence is gnawing at the essence of Israeli democracy," Peretz said. "Violence is not only in the [Israeli-Palestinian] conflict, it's between us." "Had we stopped the violence in the territories, we would have stopped violence among us. The ongoing occupation in the territories is a recipe for the loss of values in Israel. We need a road map of morals… Ending the occupation and a final status agreement are synonymous with protecting human values". God knows how much I have waited and yearned to hear such true words from a prime minister candidate. I wish Peretz the best of luck, and much success. I will be happy to help him in any way I can.


See the fluidity of Israeli political life. One significant change and elections become a hot topic yet again. Only hours after his dramatic victory, newly-elected Labour Party Chairman Peretz said on November 10, 2005 that he told Prime Minister Ariel Sharon that an agreed-upon date for early general elections must be determined. Peretz is not a minister, hence he has nothing to lose by stepping out the coalition government… Cynicism aside, Peretz always fought for the poor people, for labourers, for the working classes. He wishes to raise the minimum income secured by national insurance to a more decent level that actuallly will enable living with some dignity. If he calculates his moves cautiously, Labour may present a real challenge to the Likud Party. Anyway, with Peretz' win we are heading to very interesting time in Israeli politics. I feel wings of change, and this change is most welcomed. It will benefit large sectors of Israeli society and may make Labour a viable party, yet again.

Present polls show in this early stage that Peretz's win is very significant. Labour is expected to rise to 28 MKs. Sharon receives 33 seats, while Likud 13. Sharon should be happy to receive 30 seats. Time, I think, will work against him.

If this picture remains, Sharon and Labour will be able to comprise a coalition government alone, with the outside support of Meretz-Yachad, and the Arab parties. Together they could continue dividing the land and end the occupation. However, I am worried that corruption will rise. This Knesset is arguably the most corrupt Knesset in our history. Prime Minister Sharon and his son Omri are two of eleven MKs who have faced legal investigations for all kinds of misconduct and criminal activities. Omri already admitted guilt for violating the election law and the state prosecutor demands to lock him behind bars. Omri is putting himself on the fence to allow his father to walk over. Israel needs strong government, and also strong opposition. After all, who will guard the milk if you don't keep an eye on the hungry cats?

Riots in France

Beware France. Wake up Europe. I have a feeling that we've seen nothing yet. It is not only about poverty. It is the classical clash between those who believe in Live and Let Live, and those who believe in You Live Like Me. The conflict is unavoidable. The key to resolve the situation is by calling upon heads of the relevant communities to mitigate the tensions and get them involved in the social and political life, representing their communities and build bridges to replace alienation and suspicion.

The Scope of Tolerance

My newest book was published recently: The Scope of Tolerance: Studies on the Costs of Free Expression and Freedom of the Press (London: Routledge, 2006). Infra please find the publisher's blurb:

The Scope of Tolerance
One of the dangers in any political system is that the principles that underlie and characterise it may, through their application, bring about its destruction. Liberal democracy is no exception. Moreover, because democracy is relatively young phenomenon, it lacks experience in dealing with pitfalls involved in the working of the system - the “catch” of democracy.
The Scope of Tolerance is an interdisciplinary study concerned with the limits of tolerance, this “democratic catch”, and the costs of freedom of expression. Rights are costly, and someone must pay for them. We can and should ask about the justification for bearing the costs, weighing them against the harms inflicted upon society as a result of a wide scope of tolerance. While recognising that we have the need to express ourselves, we should also inquire about the justifications for tolerating the damaging speech and whether these are weighty enough.

This book combines theory and practice, examining issues of contention from philosophical, legal and media perspectives and covers such issues as:

Media invasion into one’s privacy
Offensive speech
Hate speech
Holocaust denial
Media coverage of terrorism

This book is essential reading for anyone who has research interests in political theory, extremism, media ethics, and free speech.

Raphael Cohen-Almagor (D. Phil., Oxon) is the founder and director of the Center for Democratic Studies, University of Haifa. He is the author of The Boundaries of Liberty and Tolerance (1994), The Right to Die with Dignity (2001), Speech, Media and Ethics (2001, 2005), Euthanasia in the Netherlands (2004) and two poetry books in Hebrew. In 1999-2000 he was the Fulbright-Yitzhak Rabin Professor at UCLA School of Law and Department of Communication, and in 2003-2004 he was Senior Fellow at the Center for Policy Studies, and Visiting Professor at the Zanvyl Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, Johns Hopkins University.

Raphael Cohen-Almagor in this thoughtful and sensitive study tackles the most complex and controversial of all constitutional guarantees: The free speech principle. Following the footsteps of John Stuart Mill he probes dilemmas and offers guidelines that political theorists, politicians, judges and journalists will have good reason to ponder.

Geoffrey Marshall, former Provost of Queen's College, Oxford

Wide-ranging and provocative, this work sets out arguments which are of vital importance to policy-makers as well as to academics.

Roger Eatwell and Cas Mudde
Bath University and Antwerp University

Right-wing Extremism in Europe

The latest Ethical Perspectives deals with right-wing extremism in Europe.
Articles can be accessed through:


University of Haifa
The Center for Democratic Research

Conference on
Freedom of Speech In Light of Prime Minister Sharon's Disengagement Plan (Gaza First Plan)

Tuesday, 20 December 2005
The Hecht Auditorium, University of Haifa

9:00-9:30 Gathering
9:30-9:50 Chairperson: Professor Eli Salzberger, Dean, Faculty of Law, University of Haifa; Research Fellow, Center for Democratic Research, University of Haifa

Professor Raphael Cohen-Almagor, Director, Center for Democratic Research
Professor Majid Al-Haj, Dean of Research
Professor Arye Rattner, Dean of Faculty of Social Sciences

9:50-11:00 First Session

Chairperson and Respondent: Professor Eli Salzberger, Dean, Faculty of Law, University of Haifa; Research Fellow, Center for Democratic Research, University of Haifa

Opening Lecture
Attorney General, Mr. Eran Shendar
"Law Enforcement, Freedom of Expression, and its Place in the Realm of Ideological Crimes during the Disengagement Period"

11:00-12:30 Second Session

Chairperson and Respondent: Professor Gideon Fishman, Department of Sociology and Anthropology; Research Fellow, Center for Democratic Research, University of Haifa

His Excellency Ambassador (ret.) Gad Yaakobi; Member, Board of Governors, Center for Democratic Research, University of Haifa
"Speech Responsibility and Normative Behavior in Israeli Democracy"

Professor Naomi Chazan, Truman Institute, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem; Member, Board of Governors, Center for Democratic Research, University of Haifa
"Freedom of Expression and the Limits of Public Debate: What Was Not Discussed During the Gaza Disengagement"

Professor Raphael Cohen-Almagor, Director, Center for Democratic Research, University of Haifa
“Political Extremism, Hate Speech and Incitement: 1993-1995, 2003-2005”

12:30-14:00 Lunch Break

14:00-15:30 Third Session

Chairperson and Respondent: Professor Arye Rattner, Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences; Research Fellow, Center for Democratic Research, University of Haifa

Justice, Israel Supreme Court (ret.) Dalia Dorner; Member, Board of Governors, Center for Democratic Research, University of Haifa
"Can Political Expression Be Considered A Criminal Offence?"

Professor Asa Kasher, IDF College of National Defense; Member, Board of Governors, Center for Democratic Research, University of Haifa
“Our Hands Didn’t Shed This Blood?”

Professor Yedidia Stern, Faculty of Law, Bar-Ilan University; Member, Board of Governors, Center for Democratic Research, University of Haifa
"Freedom of Expression and Halachic Adjudication in State Matters"

Coffee Break

16:00-17:30 Fourth Session

Chairperson and Respondent: Professor Menachem Kellner, Department of Jewish Thought; Research Fellow, Center for Democratic Research, University of Haifa

Deputy President, Israel Supreme Court (ret.) Eliahu Mazza
“The Probability that Words Can Kill”

Professor Ariel Bendor, Dean of Students; Research Fellow, Center for Democratic Research, University of Haifa
"Is It Necessary to Mete Out Justice with Those Who Broke the Disengagement Law?"

Attorney Haim Shibi, Yedioth Ahronoth
"The Media Battle of the Orange Dissidents in the Knesset"

17:30-18:45 Round Table

Chair and Discussant: Attorney Moshe Gorali, Maariv

Justice, Israel Supreme Court (ret.) Dalia Dorner; Member, Board of Governors, Center for Democratic Research, University of Haifa
Professor Raphael Cohen-Almagor, Director, Center for Democratic Research, University of Haifa
Professor Asa Kasher, IDF College of National Defense; Member, Board of Governors, Center for Democratic Research, University of Haifa
Deputy President, Israel Supreme Court (ret.) Eliahu Mazza

You're all invited.

With my very best wishes,


My last communications are available on
Earlier posts at my home page:
Books archived at
Center for Democratic Studies

Thursday, October 27, 2005

October 2005

Dear friends and colleagues,

Until the vicious attack on Hadera, infra, this month was relatively tranquil. There were a few shooting incidents in which three young people lost their lives. A few Kassam missiles had landed, also in Sharon's ranch. Luckily no one was injured. Condoleezza Rice mildly condemned Israel for the continuation of building settlements around Jerusalem and voiced her belief in "The Road Map" without deadlines for carrying it out (whom do they think they are fooling -- the Palestinians?). More should be done to bring closer the end of the occupation. The occupation should be over, the sooner the better. Gaza First is only the first step in the right direction. It should not be Gaza Last. This does not necessarily mean that Israel should rush into decisions. The Palestinians also have something to prove. But the strategic plan should be voiced loud and clear: Israel is in favour of a two state solution to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And the deal should be fair to both sides, not only to one of them. By 2008, the occupation should become a historical fact, observed in past terms, not present.

Attack on Hadera, Sharon, Bibi, Labour, New Polls, Mehlis Report on the Hariri Assassination, Yisrael Aumann, Bogliasco Center, Bella Italia, Esthetic Monaco, Berlin Lecture, New Book

Attack on Hadera

On October 26, 2005 a suicide bomber exploded in the open air market in the coastal city of Hadera a little before 4 P.M., killing five people and wounding 30 others. Five people were said to be in serious condition; another four sustained moderate wounds. It is the first bombing inside Israel since August 28, when a suicide bomber blew himself up at the entrance to Be'er Sheva's central bus station, wounding 20 people. Israel blamed the attack on the Palestinian Authority's failure to crack down on militants. The explosion occurred in front of a felafel stand at the entance to the market in downtown Hadera, a city that has been a frequent target of attacks during the past five years of violence.Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the attack soon after the blast, saying the bombing was retaliation for the death of its military leader, Luay Sa'adi, in an Israel Defense Forces raid in the West Bank several days ago. Military sources, however, were quick to point out that a bomb attack of this magnitude took longer than three days to plan.The suicide bomber who carried out the attack was identified as a 20-year-old resident of the West Bank town of Qabatiyeh. The bomber's name, Hassan Abu Zeid, was announced over a bullhorn in Qabatiyeh, residents said. Israel Radio reported he was released about one month ago from Israeli prison.Police said that there had not been specific intelligence of an attack in Hadera, but the number of officers had been increased following more general warnings.


Sharon was able to overcome Bibi's challenge. Bibi used all his influence to gather the Likud Center to challenge Sharon's leadership but, surprise, surprise, Sharon won. Not for the first time, Bibi's calculations proved to be erroneous.

The media put a lot of emphasis on an incident that took place before the Center's elections: Sharon came to the Center, for the first time after the implementation of the Gaza First Plan, to present his worldview. He rose to speak, only to find out that the microphone was not working. One of Bibi's supporters ensured that this would occur. Ashamed he stood on the podium, trying to speak, to no avail. There was no chance for him to out-voice Bibi's supporters who were chanting against him. He returned to his seat, unable to speak. The media reported that some Likud members identified with Sharon's humiliation and then and there decided to switch sides.

Well, this might be true. But I also think that there were enough Center members who were delighted to watch Sharon in his humiliation. Anyway, this can explain the result only partly. The main factors, I think, were more substantial:

- Members of the Center, like most politicians, are driven by the basic survival instinct. They wish to see themselves continue serving their party, their nation, and themselves (you decide about the order of things, according to your cynicism) indefinitely. Their chances to do just that under Sharon are substantially higher than their chances under Bibi.
- The Center members could not disregard the public, and there was quite a discrepancy between what the public wants, and what they seemed to want. While the public voiced, in repeated polls, their satisfaction with the Gaza First Plan, and with Sharon's leadership, the Center members were not that enthusiastic. They are more hawkish than the public. But, at the end of the day, there will be national elections, and the Center members wish to continue their affiliation with the leading party. With Bibi this seemed to be questionable. Reason prevailed, as they: "a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush".


So Bibi remains the tragic figure in this story. Once again, he allowed his instincts to guide him and to take over. He was rushing into decisions according to polls, without reading the whole map, because he lacks the required patience and because he is a shallow thinker. His challenge was short-lived. Now Bibi's "circles" say that he is considering to return to the business world. This would be a wise decision indeed. As a businessman his mistakes are less likely to cost human life. I will be the first to congratulate him and to wish him success, and I encourage his "circles" to urge Bibi to take this prudent decision.

The election frenzy is now over. Thanks to Bibi, early last month all were sure that Israel is heading to elections within the next six months. Now this is a non-issue. No one wishes to challenge Sharon before the scheduled elections next year, and and we will all be very surprised if Sharon loses the campaign. The people of Israel wish Sharon to continue his initiative.


Even Labour supporters prefer Sharon over their own leaders. Astonishing somewhat, but they realize that Sharon is better qualified to take tough decisions and execute them, especially if he will continue with the evacuation process. I had a discussion with the Secretary General of the Labour Party last month. Then he was speaking about retiring from the government, consolidating forces to oppose Sharon and challenge him. Now this, according to Labour's leaders, is passé. It seems Labour gave up any zeal to challenge Sharon, as if they are quite comfortable in the deputy-pilot seat, part of the coalition, enjoying government pleasantries. With this attitude, Labour will never return to its glorious days of Mapai. Under Peres's leadership, they expect to have 22 MKs in the next round of elections, and they are content with this result, which will retain their power as the second largest party. No one really wishes to lead Labour in the next elections against Sharon, as they don't believe in their ability to win. The only person who takes this responsibility is Peres. He does not mind. He has enough credentials, and enough rounds in which he came second. He is used to this. So Peres will lead Labour, probably for the last time (about time) and then Labour will need to allow new people to emerge and contest the leadership. Likely candidates, at this early point: Minister of the Interior Offir Pines-Paz, former head of the SHABAC Ami Ayalon, Secretary General of the Histadrut Amir Peretz and possibly Secretary General Eitan Cabel (one of the few people in politics whom I like and respect). The present leadership: Fuad Ben-Eliezer, Matan Vilnai, Haim Ramon, Efraim Sneh and Ehud Barak should take a back seat and work for the victory of one of the above contenders. They all should come to terms with the brute reality that the public does not find them suitable for the prime minister role. Barak will probably be the last to acknowledge and to accept this. He still believes he is the cleverest kid in town. He suffers from the same lapses that affect Bibi's judgment.

New Polls

A new poll conducted by the Center for Empowerment of Citizenship in Israel and Tel Aviv University showed that democracy is important or very important to 80% of the population. It is of some importance for 13%, and not important for 5%. The rest, 2%, did not know how to answer the question "To what extent is Israeli democracy important to you?"

"In your opinion, the state of Israel is too democratic, or less democratic than it should be?"
Too democratic 17%
Less democratic 43%
As it should be 37%
Don't know 3%

(Obviously there is room for improvement and a lot should be done to improve democratic life in Israel).

"What do you prefer: democratic government whose conduct contradicts your views, or undemocratic government that acts in accordance with your views?"

Democratic and contradicts my views 72%
Undemocratic and correspond to my views 20% (frightening, don't you think?)
Don't know 8% (also of concern)

"Do you agree with the following statement: State of Israel should grant equal rights to all, without discrimination on any ground: religion, race or gender".
Agree 77%
Unsure 11% (I presume the reservations are regarding the Arabs, far more than women)
Disagree 10%
Don't know 2%

"Do you agree with the following statement: The government can be publicly criticized also in states of emergency"
Agree 66.5%
Disagree 20%
Unsure 11%
Don't know 2.5%

"Do you agree with the following statement: Given the current state of affairs, it is preferable that Israel have strong leadership that will settle issues without dependence on elections or Knesset voting".
Disagree 34% (note that only a minority disagrees with this undemocratic suggestion. This shows the extent that democracy is fragile in my country).
Unsure 12%
Agree 48% !!
Don't know 6%

In one word: Alarming. I should note that previous polls that asked this question received about 30% support for this undemocratic proposal. Israeli democracy is eroding, also as a result of the massive emigration from the former Soviet Union that brought in people who are stripped of any understanding of democratic values.

"Do you agree with the following statement: Minimal threat to State's security justifies serious restriction of democracy".
Disagree 40%
Agree 35%
Unsure 17%
Don't know 9%

Another poll, conducted by Mossawa, The Advocacy Center for Arab Citizens in Israel, and published by Haaretz on October 19, 2005 showed that thirty-five percent of Jewish citizens oppose the law designating Arabic as an official language of the State of Israel.The poll also showed that 45 percent of Jewish citizens said they oppose the decision to reopen a police investigation into the October 2000 riots in which 13 Arabs - 12 Israeli citizens and one Palestinian - were killed by police.Thirty-four percent of poll respondents said they oppose closing probes into the October 2000 events and 17 percent said they had no opinion on the matter.

Sixty percent of Jewish citizens feel that there exists anti-Arab racism in Israel while 29 percent believe Arab citizens are not the targets of racism. Fifty-one percent of Israeli Jews feel the Arab population should be granted the right to independently manage their education system, cultural life and other community matters.The poll drew distinctions between the Russian Jewish sector and the general Jewish population. It was found that 57 percent of immigrants from the former Soviet Union (FSU) say they believe that Israeli Arabs should not be granted collective rights. Only 26 percent of immigrants from the FSU believe Israeli Arabs face discrimination while 50 percent say they believe there is no anti-Arab racism in Israel.

Mehlis Report on the Hariri Assassination

It seems that I overestimated Assad's wisdom. Apparently his regime was involved in the Hariri's assassination. According to the Mehlis Report, it is plausible to think that Assad's advisors came to him, saying: We need to get rid of this Hariri guy. You will not be involved. You know nothing about this, and Assad agreed. He, and his advisors, who were his father's advisors, thought that the nasty little games they did under the father can be done also now. They did not fathom that there are new rules of the game after September 11, 2001, and that these will be stringently enforced as long as George W. Bush in power, and Kofi Annan is the Secretary General of the UN. Annan is a loyal servant of the USA, knowing exactly on which side the bread is buttered. His reliability and loyalty to the USA are unquestionable.



On February 14, 2005, former Lebanese Premiere Rafiq Hariri was assassinated in a huge bomb explosion in Beirut. Suspicion fell on the Syrians, who had occupied Lebanon for 30 years, and who were refusing to leave despite UN Security Council Resolution 1559 which called for Syrian withdrawal. Hariri was a very wealthy man who had used his wealth to rebuild Lebanon after the Lebanese civil war. Initially he cooperated with the Syrian occupiers, but he had become an opponent of continued Syrian occupation. A Mr Abu Adass from an unknown group called al nasra wal-jihad fee bilad Al-Sham took "credit" for the assassination, but nobody had ever heard of this group and the man's story was not believable. It appeared to be part of a plot to turn suspicion away from Syria.

Anti-Zionists blamed Israel. However, it seemed that the explosion, which took place in downtown Beirut in the midst of a well-protected motorcade, could not have been done without the collusion of Lebanese and Syrian authorities. It would be difficult to acquire and conceal large quantities of explosives under the watchful eyes of Syrian intelligence. Following extensive demonstrations in Lebanon, the Syrian government agreed to end the occupation of Lebanon. However, it was apparent that number of Syrian intelligence personnel remained in Lebanon. A number of prominent Lebanese personalities whose opinions and positions were inconvenient for the Syrian government were killed in various explosions. A large number of armed Palestinians belonging to groups sympathetic to Syria infiltrated the Lebanese refugee camps, causing alarm in the Lebanese government and in the Palestinian National Authority. Lebanese army tanks surrounded the camps.

The UN was called upon to investigate and began doing so a relatively long time after the fact. As expected, much of the evidence was obscured or removed from the seen. Nonetheless, the preliminary report of investigator Detlev Mehlis was able to reach some tentative conclusions. These are given in the report below. The report is dated October 19, but was not released until October 21. The investigators asked for an extension and were granted an extension until December. Therefore, this must be viewed as an interim report.

Shortly before the release of the report, on October 12, 2005, Ghazi Kanaan, Interior Minister of Syria and formerly in charge of Syrian Intelligence in Lebanon, committed suicide.


202. It is the Commission’s view that the assassination on 14 February 2005 was carried out by a group with an extensive organization and considerable resources and capabilities. The crime had been prepared over the course of several months. For this purpose, the timing and location of Mr. Rafik Hariri’s movements had been monitored and the itineraries of his convoy recorded in detail.

203. Building on the findings of the Commission and Lebanese investigations to date and on the basis of the material and documentary evidence collected, and the leads pursued until now, there is converging evidence pointing at both Lebanese and Syrian involvement in this terrorist act. It is a well known fact that Syrian Military Intelligence had a pervasive presence in Lebanon at the least until the withdrawal of the Syrian forces pursuant to resolution 1559. The former senior security officials of Lebanon were their appointees. Given the infiltration of Lebanese institutions and society by the Syrian and Lebanese intelligence services working in tandem, it would be difficult to envisage a scenario whereby such a complex assassination plot could have been carried out without their knowledge.

204. It is also the Commission’s view that the context of the assassination of Mr. Hariri was one of extreme political polarization and tension. Accusations and counter accusations targeting mainly Mr. Hariri over the period preceding his assassination corroborate the Commission’s conclusion that the likely motive of the assassination was political. However, since the crime was not the work of individuals but rather of a sophisticated group, it very much seems that fraud, corruption, and money-laundering could also have been motives for individuals to participate in the operation.

205. The Commission considers that the investigation must continue for some time to come. In the short time period of four months more than 400 persons have been interviewed, 60 000 documents reviewed, several suspects identified, and some main leads established. Yet, the investigation is not complete.

206. It is the Commission’s conclusion that the continuing investigation should be carried forward by the appropriate Lebanese judicial and security authorities, who have proved during the investigation that with international assistance and support, they can move ahead and at times take the lead in an effective and professional manner. At the same time, the Lebanese authorities should look into all the case’s ramifications including bank transactions. The 14 February explosion needs to be assessed clearly against the sequence of explosions which preceded and followed it, since there could be links between some, if not all, of them.

207. The Commission is therefore of the view that, should the Lebanese authorities so wish it, a sustained effort on the part of the international community to establish an assistance and cooperation platform together with the Lebanese authorities in the field of security and justice is essential. This will considerably boost the trust of the Lebanese people in their security system, while building self-confidence in their capabilities.

208. The recent decision to proceed with new senior security appointments was hailed by all the Lebanese parties. It was an important step towards improving the integrity and credibility of the security apparatus. However, it took place after months of a security vacuum and extensive sectarian-political debate. Much needs to be done to overcome sectarian divisions, disentangle security from politics, and restructure the security apparatus to avoid parallel lines of reporting and duplication and to enhance accountability.

Yisrael Aumann

Yisrael Aumann, a professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem who holds dual American and Israeli citizenship, and Thomas C. Schelling, an American, have won the 2005 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences. This is a great achievement for Israel. For a second year in a row, an Israeli wins this most prestigious prize.

Aumann and Schelling won the $1.3 million prize "for having enhanced our understanding of conflict and cooperation through game-theory analysis," the academy said.
Through their work, Aumann, 75, and Schelling, 84, have helped to "explain economic conflicts such as price wars and trade wars, as well as why some communities are more successful than others in managing common-pool resources," the academy said in its citation. "The repeated-games approach clarifies the raison d'etre of many institutions, ranging from merchant guilds and organized crime to wage negotiations and international trade agreements."
Aumann was cited for his analysis of "infinitely repeated games" to identify what outcomes can be maintained over time.

"Insights into these issues help explain economic conflicts such as price wars and trade wars, as well as why some communities are more successful than others in managing common-pool resources," said the citation, published by Haaretz newspaper on October 10, 2005..

Aumann, who was born in Frankfurt, Germany, immigrated to New York with his family in 1938. He studied mathematics in New York and completed his undergraduate and graduate studies over there. He then went to MIT to write his doctoral dissertation and is now a professor at the Center for Rationality at the Hebrew University.
Schelling is a professor at the University of Maryland's department of economics and a professor emeritus at Harvard.

Upon earning his doctorate, Aumann moved to Princeton and began researching the games theory, then a field in its early days. He immigrated to Israel in 1956 and became a staff member at the Hebrew University Mathematics Institute, where he taught until his retirement.
In his research Aumann developed tools for accurate analysis of economic systems where player groups have great influence over the final result, while individual players have very little influence over the outcome of processes.

Bogliasco Center

I had wonderful and productive time at the charming villa of the Bogliasco Center. If you are working on an article, or about to complete a book, and you seek peace and tranquility to reflect and write, this is the place for you. The Center provides a room overlooking the sea, full board (fine Italian cuisine), a private study with excellent facilities – perfect conditions for peace of mind. The staff is friendly and helpful, the gardens charming, and if you wish to enjoy some city life, Genova is just 40 minutes away. My friends in the arts and humanities are welcome to contact me for further details if you are considering applying.

Bella Italia, Esthetic Monaco

Italy is beautiful. Those who are looking for new places to visit, beyond the "usual suspects" Rome, Venice, Florence, Sienna and Napoli are welcome to ponder visiting Vernazza (truly beautiful), Monterosso (charming), Levanto, Portofino and the promenade that connects Bogliasco to Nervi.

Also enjoyed Monaco a great deal. It is a place full of chic and good taste. For the first time I visited a living place and felt like I was in Disneyland: The designers of Monte Carlo and those who maintain it seemed to think about every little detail. It is certainly the cleanest and arguably the most esthetic modern city I've ever visited.

Berlin Lecture

Center for Democratic Studies and Posen Forum for Political Thought, The University of Haifa

Supported by
The President
The Rector
Faculty of Humanities
Faculty of Social Sciences
The Research Authority

cordially invite you to

Festive Lecture in Honour and Memory of Prof. Sir Isaiah Berlin

The Lecture will be delivered by

Susan Mendus
Department of Politics
York University, The United Kingdom

Saving One’s Soul or Founding a State: Morality and the Politician

Chairperson: Prof. Raphael Cohen-Almagor
Greetings: Ambassador Simon McDonald CMG
Dr. Fania Oz-Salzberger, The School of History and the Faculty of Law; Director, Posen Research Forum

Wednesday, November 23, 2005, at 6:30 p.m.
Hecht Museum Auditorium
Main Building, University of Haifa

Refreshments will be served from 6:00 p.m.

Saving One’s Soul or Founding a State: Morality and the Politician
Susan Mendus

In his celebrated essay on Machiavelli, Isaiah Berlin argues that what is truly original about Machiavelli is his discovery that ‘there are at least two worlds: each of them has much, indeed everything, to be said for it; but they are two and not one. One must learn to choose between them and, having chosen, not look back’. The politician does not act contrary to morality; he embraces a different morality – the morality of politics.

In this lecture, I will discuss the claim that politics is itself a world of value and I will ask how that claim might influence our understanding and assessment of politicians who engage in morally disreputable acts.

New Book

Yoram Peri, Yad Ish Be'achiv (Tel Aviv: Yedioth Ahronoth and Bavel, 2005) (Hebrew).

Please consider ordering it for your library.

With my very best wishes, as ever,


My last communications are available on http://almagor.blogspot.comEarlier posts at my home page:
Books archived at
Center for Democratic Studies

Thursday, September 29, 2005

September 2005

The Fence, Elections, Peace Index, Israeli Institutions at the Crossroads, Nature, New Article, New Books

The Fence

On September 15, 2005, the High Court of Justice in a 9-0 unanimous vote upheld a petition submitted by Palestinian residents of West Bank villages, ruling that the state must reconsider within a reasonable timeframe an alternative route for the fence in the area of the northern West Bank settlement of Alfei Menashe.

The petition was submitted by residents of five Palestinian villages in the Alfei Menashe enclave. The fence separates them from the rest of the West Bank and nearby urban areas - Qalqilyah to the north and Habla to the south - where the residents had gone for most of their services. "Since the fence went up in the area, nearly all the residents of the Palestinian enclave have lost their jobs, and their struggle for survival obligates them to choose between illegal infiltration into Israel and occasional work at starvation wages in Alfei Menashe, as the servants to the settlers," the petition said.

The panel nevertheless rejected the July 2004 ruling by the International Court of Justice in the Hague and ruled that Israel has the principled right to build a separation fence in the West Bank, beyond the Green Line, for security reasons.

This decision contradicts the petitioners' stance that Israel does not have the authority to build the fence beyond the Green Line and that the fence was being built for political, not security, reasons.

The nine-justice panel headed by Supreme Court President Aharon Barak ruled that according to international law, an army in occupied territory is authorized to erect a fence in order to protect the lives of Israelis, including settlers. The High Court based its ruling on regulations of the International Court of Justice in the Hague, which constitute an integral part of international law, as well as the constitutional rights of settlers under Israeli law.

The justices ruled that the international court's decision should be given legal weight, but that since the judges at The Hague were not presented with the complete evidential basis for Israel's security needs, the international court's ruling does not bind the Israeli High Court of Justice.
The panel said the Israel Defense Forces must come up with new solutions that would not adversely affect the quality of life of Palestinian residents as severely as the current route does.
The ruling is likely to have serious repercussions for the actual construction of the separation fence as well as for Israel's foreign policy. Reminder: in June 2004, the High Court invalidated 30 kilometers of the planned fence route near Jerusalem, in response to a petition submitted by residents of the West Bank village of Beit Surik near Mevasseret Zion. In that decision, the court avoided ruling on whether the state has the authority to build a fence in the West Bank - an issue the justices addressed in this ruling.


The intensity of events in Israel is always impressive. The disengagement process has not ended, as the smell of elections has become strong and pressing. In a matter of a few months, the Likud Central Committee will convene to decide about the future of Sharon, of Bibi, and of the party. This is the prize Sharon received for evacuating lands of Israel.

There is a significant discrepancy between Sharon's popularity in the Israeli public, and his popularity in the Likud Center. Netanyahu, relying on his polls, retired from the government in order to challenge Sharon. His entire agenda is dictated by polls. Hard to believe that this is the way a leader conducts his move, but true. Hard to say whether Sharon will be able to close the gap between him and Netanyahu. Meanwhile, in the Labour Party Ehud Barak, the main rival of Shimon Peres within the party, called his fellow party leaders to unify around Shimon Peres (on August 30, 2005), arguing that Shimon has the best chance of winning the elections, especially against Netanyahu. Barak is right.

I was asked: What do you think of Bibi's chances of gaining the Prime Ministership at the next elections? Well, it is going to be very close. Current polls show that if Sharon would run against Peres, he is sure to win. But the Likud apparently does not want Sharon. The polls show that Peres and Bibi have equal chances to win were they to run against one another.

I have met Bibi several times, and heard him enough times to consolidate an opinion about his abilities. I think he is an excellent PR person, arguably the best spokesperson Israel has. Bibi, however, is not satisfied with this role. He wishes to lead and to make decisions. Here I have many reservations about his capabilities and qualities. I always said that he is clever, a thinker, but neither a deep thinker nor a careful one. He allows his instincts to guide him and to take over. He is rushing into decisions possibly because he lacks the required patience. His worldview is very right-wing, not to say extreme right. He is far from being a moderate who has the will to compromise over the lands of Israel. When he was in power, he did his best, quite successfully, to halt the Oslo process and to frustrate Arafat. He certainly has some shares in paving the way for the eruption of the terror campaign against Israel in 2000. The positive momentum in the Rabin-Peres days was lost, to such an extent that Barak was unable to recapture it. I would not like to trust Israel in the hands of this person. We humans are all prone to make mistakes, but we cannot afford Bibi's likely mistakes.

Peace Index

Prof. Ephraim Yaar and Prof. Tamar Hermann found in their peace index survey that was conducted from August 30 to September 1, 2005 the following:

The prevalent view among the Jewish public is that the disengagement plan from Gaza is only a first step toward an extensive evacuation of West Bank settlements that will be carried out in the context of an agreement with the Palestinians. At the same time, only a small majority supports an evacuation of this kind, whether in the framework of an agreement with the Palestinians or in unilateral fashion, with the clear preference being for an evacuation that is part of an agreement. The small advantage of the supporters of a further evacuation can be ascribed to several factors, such as: opposition in principle to dismantling Jewish settlements, especially in the West Bank; lack of trust in the ability and intentions of the Palestinians; and the effects on Israeli society of the Gaza unilateral-evacuation experience.

As for the performance of the disengagement, a large majority of the Jewish public believes the security forces showed great or very great consideration toward the settlers. A slightly smaller majority thinks the degree of violence the settlers displayed was slight or very slight. However, the rate of those saying the settlers’ leadership showed little or very little responsibility is higher than the rate of those who think they demonstrated great or very great responsibility.
As for the Jewish public’s assessment of who can advance the peace process with the Palestinians while safeguarding Israel’s vital interests, it appears that Ariel Sharon is unquestionably in first place, with Bibi Netanyahu and Shimon Peres trailing far behind with equal support. At the bottom of the list, receiving just a few percentage points, is Ehud Barak. About one-fourth of all the Jewish interviewees, however, see none of these individuals as suited to the task.

Israeli Institutions at the Crossroads

Just published: R. Cohen-Almagor, Editor, Israeli Institutions at the Crossroads (London: Routledge, 2005). Here is my final word, published with permission by Routledge:

Israeli Institutions at the Crossroads
Raphael Cohen-Almagor


This essay discusses the SHABAC affair of 1984, conceiving it as the most serious scandal in Israel's history. I argue that key figures and institutions in Israeli society, including the president, the prime minister, the government, the knesset, the SHABAC, the army, and the Supreme Court acted wrongly in this affair. I then move on to discuss the government institution, protesting against the tendency to form unified governments composed of the two leading parties, Likud and Labour. I assert that stable democracy needs a strong government and no less importantly a strong coalition. Only in time of war there is room to consider such a unified government. As for the Knesset, it is suggested to raise the entry threshold to 5 percent of the electorate in order to decrease the number of parties represented. It is further suggested to change the voting system: Sixty percent of the Knesset to be elected directly via a party list, and forty percent to be elected in the districts. Finally, I discuss the roles of the Supreme Court, arguing that they do not include legislation. At the same time, judges can employ creative interpretations of the law when they formulate their rulings. It is further suggested that the Court should strive to represent different religious, national and cultural groups of society.

In this closing chapter I wish to consider some of the issues raised by the contributors to this book. The discussion is supposed to give the readers some food for thought as to how we can contribute to the safeguarding and enhancing of Israeli institutions.

The Role of the President
Yitzhak Navon discusses in his article the SHABAC (Line 300 episode) of 12 April 1984, specifically the decision of President Haim Herzog to grant clemency to the SHABAC agents involved in the killing and coverup of the two Arabs who kidnapped a bus and were subsequently caught. Israeli democracy has known many tragic affairs and scandals but I think the SHABAC affair is arguably the most serious of all. Almost all the key figures involved in this episode acted, in my opinion, wrongly. The affair started with the wrong decision of the head of the SHABAC, Avraham Shalom, to execute the two kidnappers after they surrendered; continued with SHABAC attempts to sabotage and to undermine the work of two investigation committees - the Zorea Committee established in April 1984 and the Blatman Committee established in April 1985 - appointed to reveal the truth. The SHABAC insisted on having a representative in the Zorea Committee and here the SHABAC top agent, Yossi Genosar, excelled in his attempts to clear his colleauges and to incriminate Brigadier General Yitzhak Mordechay, who interrogated the two Arabs in the field outside the bus but did not kill them. Mordechay had to face a court trial which exonerated him. Then, in October 1985 three SHABAC top officers, Reuven Hazak, Peleg Raday and Rafi Malka, who could not continue living with the deceit approached Prime Minister Shimon Peres, told him what they know about the affair, but Peres preferred to back up Avraham Shalom. Consequently, the three top officers were forced to resign from the service. The two other members in the "Prime Ministers Forum", Yitzhak Shamir and Yitzhak Rabin, backed Peres's erroneous decision.
The government, wishing to put an end to this affair, in effect terminated the Attorney General's term in office, although Prof. Zamir made it clear that he wished to serve in office until the affair comes to a conclusion. The main figure who stood for law, order and furthering truth and justice had to step down from office for his insistence to pursue the matter by ordering a police investigation. However, the scheme did not help as Zamir's replacement, Yoseph Harish who entered office in June 1986, reached the same conclusion and ordered the opening of a police investigation.
Then came President Herzog's shameless decision to grant clemency to the SHABAC agents before they were convicted. The decision was backed by Attorney General Harish, Minister of Justice Yitzhak Modai, Minister of Defence Arens and most of the government ministers (the only objection came from Ezer Weitzman, who later became President). This act mocks procedures of justice. And finally the Supreme Court refrained from disqualifying the amnesty decision, preferring security considerations over the principle of equality before the law. The Supreme Court, in a 2 to 1 decision (Meir Shamgar and Miriam Ben-Porat v. Aharon Barak) held that were the SHABAC agents to stand trial, severe damage was to be expected to the highest public interest, and that under the circumstances no other reasonable solution could be effectuated. I beg to differ. To my mind, severe damage was inflicted on the public interest as a result of the clemency decision, and the reasonable solution should have been to unveil the deceit and corrupt behaviour of the SHABAC in this affair, introducing law and order norms into a service that was acting secretively, away from the public eye, and consequently allowed itself to act in accordance with unacceptable norms of murdering people after they surrender, lying to law and order authorities, blaming others for their own wrong deeds, and then getting away with all this misconduct by approaching the state president, holding tight to the altar of security. Never in our history was there such a lunar eclipse, where key figures cooperated to defend a corrupt secret service, holding false security considerations as a sacred supreme value.[1]

The Government
In the near future it seems that the Likud Party will continue to lead the country. The Labour Party should resist the temptation to join another coalition government with the Likud. Stable democracy needs a strong government and no less important a strong opposition. Labour, and Israel, paid a high price for sitting together with the Likud in the previous governments. Labour lost its identity. You cannot be part of a government and then go out and criticize it for misconduct. The public is not stupid. The public realizes that Labour was part of this same government until yesterday and all it has to offer is different people, but the same direction. If the choice is between the original and the copy, the original is preferable.
Israel also paid a high price. I see a direct link between the lack of strong opposition and rising corruption. Without sufficient safeguards and brakes, both parties are exploiting their power and some are tempted to cross not only ethical but also legal boundaries. I think that the only exception to this anti-Likud/Labour coalition is a time of war. Such a coalition was justified in 1967, on the eve of the Six Day War for a limited period of time. I did not imagine that Labour and the Likud would stick to this coalition for years since the 1980s. I hope the leaders of the second largest party will be wise enough to understand the political price they will have to pay if they do this. The Labour leaders were not very prudent in entering into a coalition government under Ariel Sharon's leadership. Now they pay the price.
Patience will pay in the long run. To be credible, the second major party should offer opposition to the government, otherwise it will lose its identity.

The Knesset
The Knesset, as Naomi Chazan rightly notes, has far too many parties. Consequently, its legislative effectiveness is relatively small, and the government’s ability to sustain power is lessened. The multi-faction composition opens the way to manipulations, gives rise to blackmail and undermines coalition effectiveness. The threshold to enter parliament, 1.5 percent of the electoral vote, gives a lot of leeway to representation and exploitation at the expense of stability, working to further the ends of partisan groups. I would suggest raising the threshold to five percent, as is the case in Germany. Effectively, this law restricts the number of splinter parties in the Bundestag and the regional parliaments and promotes political stability.[2] The five percent clause has been a factor in every federal election since 1957.
Germany has certainly learnt the lessons of its history and can serve as a model also with regard to the voting system. Germany is using a mixed electoral system[3] in which part of the Bundestag is elected in single majority districts in which a candidate must gain the greatest number of votes to win, and part is elected through proportional representation, which gives all parties a fair opportunity to gain some representation in the legislature based on their electoral strength. Germany’s policymakers after WWII wanted to avoid a repetition of the Weimar proportional representation system, which encouraged multiplicity of parties to run candidates for the Reichstag, thereby contributing to political instability and to the rise of National Socialism.[4] In the early 1990s, Russia, Mexico and Japan adopted a similar mixed electoral system. I suggest the same for Israel. Sixty percent of the Knesset to be elected directly via a party list as is now the case in the proportional system, and forty percent to be elected in the districts.[5] The idea is to split Israel into several districts in a way that would reflect the various groups in society and their relative prominence.[6] Each voter will cast two ballots: the first for one of the competing party candidates in the district; the second for one of the lists of candidates drawn up by each party. The number of mandates received by the party is based on its percentage of votes in the entire country. The seats are then distributed to the parties according to their strength in each district.[7] The combination of a relatively high threshold and a mixed electoral system would reduce the ability of small interest parties to be elected, will make the Knesset less diversified, with five or six parties at most, and reduce the extortion power of the small parties, some of which would altogether disappear. The Knesset’s power will rise and its effectiveness as a legislative body would grow.
I am not the first to suggest these reforms. They have been put on the public agenda time and again, and every time have been turned down due to pressure exerted by the small parties fighting for their survival. Most notably, the religious parties have resisted such attempts with notable success. Israel needs strong and bold leaders who are able to rise above and beyond their immediate interest to sustain power in order to carry out these reforms to better legislative ability.

The Supreme Court
The Supreme Court has attracted quite a lot of criticism in recent years. It was attacked by conservative and religious circles for its liberal adjudication on civil matters. In turn, the Court was attacked by the political left for its often hard line approach on security matters. I would like to take issue with two general lines of critique: the Court's activist approach, and its lack of representation of significant segments of society.
As for the first issue, Israel has no constitution, no bill of rights, nor even a Basic Law to defend fundamental civil liberties, thus the Court is the main bastion of safeguarding democracy and human rights. For this reason justices of the Supreme Court are often required to adopt a creative approach in adjudication. The Court cannot hide behind the lack of explicit written provision when crucial questions of constitutional nature are at issue, leaving their resolution in the hands of partisan politicians. Since political parties had failed to reach a compromise over the enactment of a law to safeguard civil rights, requiring individuals and bodies to approach the Court to find assistance, the Court should not refrain from taking a stand on constitutional matters. Having said that, the Court derives its authority from the law, and it has to adjudicate in accordance with the law. In addition, the Court cannot ignore the social and political environment in which its decisions are made and their likely implications.

This book describes in detail the tensions and schisms that are part and parcel of Israeli life. In such an atmosphere, the role of the judge is to set standards for action for both politicians and the courts when they are faced with constitutional matters, especially where attacks on the very foundations of democracy are concerned. Hence a framework exists for taking normative constitutional principles into account. These principles may in some "hard cases" convince the Court to take a creative approach.[8] Here are two sets of considerations that inevitably play their part when judges come to formulate a ruling. One set is related to the moral convictions held by the judges, influenced by their personal upbringing and educational background, as well as by the tradition and values of the society in which they live. The other is concerned with the specific legal history. Precedents and other legal facts are bound to limit the moral considerations of judges but they should not exclude moral considerations altogether. When faced with an unprecedented situation, in which they are required to use their discretion to find a judicial solution to a "hard case", judges should decide the case by interpreting the political structure of their community so as to find the best possible justification, in principles of political morality, for the structure as a whole. Accordingly, if the right of people to be treated as equals and not to be harmed by others can be defended only by creative adjudication, then creativity is not only in order but necessary. This is the case as long as the judge tries to make the creative decision in line with previous ones rather than starting in a new direction as if writing on a clean slate.[9]
At the same time, a difference exists between creative interpretation and judicial legislation. It is not the role of the Court to legislate. Instead, one of its roles is to scrutinize the legislature. One may argue that the difference between the two concepts is merely semantic. I, on the other hand, think that the tone often makes the music. Even only for tactical reasons, the Court should be aware of its place and of its role in the democratic system and exhibit its awareness to the public. It should not attempt to replace the work of the Knesset.
The second major critique that is often voiced against the Court relates to its lack of representation. The Court was attacked for its social homogeneity. There was never an Arab justice in permanent appointment. The Court consists of mainly Ashkenazi, secular Jews and it is argued that they tend to have much in common. Consequently their adjudications do not reflect ideas and opinions that are prevalent among the Sephardi and the more traditional circles.
The ethnic/religious/national origins of a candidate should not be the major consideration in appointing him or her to the Court. Merit, of course, should be the first and foremost consideration. But sometimes there may be two or three candidates with similar credentials and experience. Then the candidate's social background may play a role. The Court should strive to represent major sectors of society, and not be aloof from the social environment and the citizens whom it serves. It is to its advantage to try to represent large societal segments and to have plural worldviews stemming from different religious, national and cultural backgrounds.


The two terrifying storms, Katrina and Rita evoked somber thoughts. We have achieved so much, conquering the moon and Mars, yet stand and watch how such storms are building up, and the only measure we take is evacuation. If people in the Bush administration are reading this, I plead with you: Put together a group of scientists to explore ways to mitigate storms and halt their building up into destructive hurricanes. I find it hard to believe that we can't do anything, but just watch their gaining strength.

New Article

Media Coverage of Acts of Terrorism: Troubling Episodes and Suggested Guidelines, Canadian Journal of Communication, Volume 30, No. 3 (2005), pp. 383-409.

The job of the press is not to worry about the consequences of its coverage, but to tell the truth… As much as those of us in the press would like to be popular and loved, it is more important that we are accurate and fair… and let the chips fall where they may.

Larry Grossmann,
President, NBC News

During the past forty years there have been many instances in which media coverage of terrorist events was problematic and irresponsible, evoking public criticism and antagonizing the authorities. This essay aims to shed light on the intricate relationships between government, media and terrorists. Through close scrutiny of irresponsible actions of some organs of the media in crisis situations in the USA, the UK, Israel, Canada and Germany, it is argued that important lessons should be learned, indicating the need to develop a set of guidelines for responsible media coverage of terror. One might think that in this triangle of government, media, and terrorists the media would side with the government in the fight against terror. This study shows that this was not always the case, and that the media sometimes allied themselves with terrorists for partisan or ideological reasons. The media should cooperate with the government when human lives are at stake in order to bring a peaceful end to the terrorist episode.

The article will be of interest to people who are interested in ethics, communication and terror; to academics, media professionals and politicians. Those interested to read it are welcome to contact me and I'll gladly send a copy.

New Books

Eric Barendt, Freedom of Speech (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), revised and updated edition of the 1985 book.

R. Cohen-Almagor, Israeli Democracy at the Crossroads (London: Routledge, 2005).

R. Cohen-Almagor, Israeli Institutions at the Crossroads (London: Routledge, 2005).

Martin Hirst and Roger Patching, Journalism Ethics: Arguments and Cases (Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 2005).

Please consider ordering them for your library.

With my very best wishes from Villa dei Pini, Shana Tova U'meusheret,


My last communications are available on
Earlier posts at my home page:
Books archived at
Center for Democratic Studies

Those wishing to subscribe this monthly Newsletter are welcome to contact Raphael Cohen-Almagor at

[1]. For further discussion, see "Maariv Report: The Shabac Affair", Maariv (18 July 1986), pp. 6-8 (Hebrew); M. Kremnitzer, "The Case of the Security Services Pardon", Tel-Aviv Univ. L. Rev., Vol. 12 (1986), 595; Ilan Rachum, The Shabac Affair (Jerusalem: Carmel, 1990) (Hebrew).
· [2]. In Germany, parties that achieve less than 5% of the votes or do not receive at least three direct mandates for the constituency candidates cannot participate in the allocation of seats. See Eckhard Jesse, Elections: The Federal Republic of Germany in Comparison (New York: Berg, 1990), p. 71.
· [3]. But see Eckhard Jesse, "The Electoral System: More Continuity than Change", in Ludger Helms (ed.), Institutions and Institutional Change in the Federal Republic of Germany (Houndmills: Macmillan, 2000), pp. 124-142, esp. p. 127.
· [4]. Gerhard Braunthal, Parties and Politics in Modern Germany (Boulder, Col.: Westview Press, 1996), p. 46. See also Susan E. Scarrow, "Political Parties and the Changing Framework of German Electoral Competition", in Christopher J. Anderson and Carsten Zelle (eds.), Stability and Change in German Elections (Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 1998), pp. 301-322.
· [5]. In Germany, each of the two systems weighs 50 per cent of the voting power. I suggest breaking the balance and giving more weight to the proportional system because experience of primaries held in the two major parties, Labour and Likud, showed that candidates competing on the national level were better equipped to serve as legislators than representatives elected in the districts. The Likud does not hold primaries anymore and shifted the locus of power to its central committee. Labour still resorts to primaries that combine the mixed electoral system: some are elected nationally; others in the districts.
· [6]. Until German unification in 1990, each Bundestag had at least 496 deputies, half of them elected directly by plurality in the 248 single-member districts and the other half elected on a system of proportional representation by party lists in the country. Since unification, the deputies number at least 656, and the districts 328 to provide sufficient representation to eastern German voters. The size of each district must not deviate by more than one fourth from the national average. See David P. Conradt, “The 1994 Campaign and Election”, in David P. Conradt, Gerald R. Kleinfeld, George K. Romoser and Christian Soe (eds.), Germany’s New Politics (Providence, RI.: Berghahn Books, 1995), p. 2; Braunthal, Parties and Politics in Modern Germany, op. cit., p. 47. See also Peter James, The German Electoral System (London: Ashgate, 2003).
· [7]. Of the two ballots, the second is the more important because it will determine the number of parliament seats that each party gains. If a party receives more direct seats than it would be entitled to under proportional representation, then it receives additional seats. In the 1994 Bundestag elections, two of the parties (CDU and SPD) received 16 additional mandates. For further discussion, see Gert-Joachim Glaessner, The Unification Process in Germany (London: Pinter Publishers, 1992).
[8]. Ronald M. Dworkin, "Hard Cases", Harvard Law Review, Vol. 88, No.6 (1975): 1057-1109; idem, Law's Empire (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1986).
· [9]. R. Cohen-Almagor, The Boundaries of Liberty and Tolerance (Gainesville, FL: The University Press of Florida, 1994), chap. 11.