The Duveneck House at Hidden Villa featured tiles with pre-Nazi swastikas, a common symbol in Eastern religions, in Los Altos Hills. (Photo/Courtesy Hidden Villa)
The Duveneck House at Hidden Villa featured tiles with pre-Nazi swastikas, a common symbol in Eastern religions, in Los Altos Hills. (Photo/Courtesy Hidden Villa)

Israel needs electoral reform; foolish swastika arguments

Israel needs electoral reform

Israelis vote for party lists, apportioning Knesset seats strictly via “proportional representation.” No single party has ever won a majority of the 120 Knesset seats by itself. Every Israeli government, therefore, has been run by a coalition (“A 5th Israeli election in 3 years? Here’s how we got here and what happens next,” June 23, online).

Yet, until a few years ago, most Knesset sessions survived for three to four years. Much depends on how close the largest party comes to having 61 seats.

A party with 50 or more seats will generally have a choice of smaller parties with which to create a coalition. If there is some subsequent falling out, the big party can easily find a replacement for its first partner.

Naftali Bennett’s coalition of eight parties (several having been in existence for 10 years or fewer) was in constant danger of dissolution as it was cobbled together by the only parties (the largest having 17 seats) that were willing to work together. The defection of one or two MKs was enough to bring the government down.

Israel needs electoral reform. There are too many parties and they are created and dissolved at an amazing rate.

Because coalitions are formed post-election, voters often find the government’s priorities to be at odds with the wishes of the electorate as expressed in the voting booth.

New Zealand, similar in size to Israel, used to have a similar history of government by coalition. A single party emerged with a majority of the seats in Parliament after New Zealand instituted two reforms. Parties were required to participate in public debates followed by polling. If the poll results indicated a party was unlikely to pass the election threshold, it was barred from standing for election until the government to be chosen had ended its term. Also, some seats were designated to be assigned to specific districts, with representatives being chosen by direct competition.

Toby Block

Foolish swastika arguments

Symbols and words need intent to make them damaging, or healing.

The ancient symbol of a swastika is not offensive to me knowing that it is intended to symbolize a peaceful lifestyle (“New CA hate crime bill differentiates Hindu swastika from Nazi emblem,” May 27, and “Uproar over historical pre-Nazi swastikas forces Bay Area summer camp to cancel sessions,” June 16).

The same people wanted to remove the mural at George Washington High School. We have a middle finger. Should we cut it off if we use it to indicate the No. 1? Should we no longer use chemicals produced by BASF, the same company that produced the poison in the extermination camp “showers”?

Perhaps if we see a swastika symbol it might create at least a curiosity as to its origin.

This is such a waste of energy to argue over this.

Norman Hersch

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