A Lily of the Valley

Prof. Paul Eidelberg
Israel-America Renaissance Institute

1) Aristotle studies some 150 regimes before he composed The Politics, the greatest work in political science. In Book IV of that classic, he set forth a myriad of political regimes by varying the parameters—tenure, powers, size, and mode of election—that shape their governing institutions.

2) Not until Hamilton, Madison, and Jay wrote The Federalist Papers, did there appear a text on how to design political institutions comparable to that which Aristotle’s Politics can teach us. Unfortunately, this wisdom was ignored by the founders of the modern State of Israel–and it shows, to the Jew’s disadvantage and embarrassment, despite the vain boast that Israel as the only democracy in the Middle East—sink-hole of corruption and despotism

3) Aristotle describes five different types of democracy. All are based on the rule of the many, the poor. Since the many rule in their own interests, democracy is a bad or unjust regime, but not as bad as oligarchy, the rule of the few, primarily the rich.

4) Aristotle shows that a “mixed regime” that combines various ingredients of democracy and oligarchy is the best practical regime. He calls this a “polity,” say a “republic.” A republic is the best practical because it’s stable, moderate, and favorable to the rule of law as opposed to the arbitrary will of men. Properly designed, a republic should give the appearance of being a democracy.

5) Of the five types of democracy, the worst, says Aristotle, lacks the rule of law and therefore approaches anarchy. The latter can hardly be called a “regime,” since the term “regime” implies a distinctive way of life and a more or less stable relationship between the rulers and the ruled, where the former are accountable to the latter.

6) Apart from other shortcomings, democracy exalts change. This undermines reverence for the law. The law can hardly be deemed venerable when it is here today and gone tomorrow.

7) According to Aristotle, the only type of democracy that can rightly be called a regime is one that has a constitution, a structure of institutions that regulates the power and alternating relationship of rulers and ruled.

The preceding information casts some doubt on whether Israel is a regime in the Aristotelian sense of the term. This doubt is intensified by plethora of parties in the Knesset. Seats are distributed on the basis of Proportional Representation with a very low electoral threshold, in consequence of which Israel has never had a majority party in control of the Government. Indeed, the Government has ever consisted of five or six rival parties, each with its own agenda, which cannot but undermine the cultivation of a strong sense of national unity and purpose characteristic of anarchy.

The question arises, how does Israel survive? It is hardly an exaggeration to say that Israel today is not a political regime so must as a sociological potpourri lacking any ruling principle. It’s more accurately defined economic and technological society devoid any Jewish philosophy. Its Zionism evaporated with the policy of “territory for peace.” As for Israel’s religious veneer, it has worn so thin as to be an embarrassment.

All talk about Zionism and Jewish identity, either by old parties such as the Likud, or new parties such as Jewish Home and Yesh Atid, is sheer flapdoodle.

Not a single party leader in Israel has the brains to formulate a philosophy of government that could yield a genuine synthesis of Jewish and democratic principles—a synthesis which can actually be found in the Hebraic Republic of antiquity.

That synthesis recurred in colonial America, where it not only enriched the political thought of Harvard president Samuel Langdon and Yale president Ezra Styles. It also fructified the political creativity of America’s Founding Fathers. That synthesis once blossomed in the Land of Israel.

Dare we believe it can blossom again like a Lily of the Valley?

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