Many years ago, the late humorist songwriter Chaim Cheffer wrote a seemingly innocuous ditty called “How Did the Flea Rise Up,” about this industrious flea who may have been born in a mouse’s fur, but he knew he was meant for larger animals, and so he kept rising up the ranks, to a doggie, then to a donkey (he hated that one because donkeys have to work), moved up to a horse and then, finally, made it to the government.
It was sung by the satirical group Mo’adon Hateatron (Theater Club), became a hit, and everybody in Israel, but everybody, knew it was about Shimon Peres, the indefatigable climber. According to Cheffer himself, who devoted part of his video last will to this song, Peres himself knew it too, which is why he and the gifted lyricist were not very close.
It’s all I could think about this morning.
Shimon Peres’s term is coming to an end (not a minute too soon, if you ask me, but few do) this July. This was supposed to conclude a career that began with him carrying Ben Gurion’s attaché case and making coffee, and ended with repeated failed bids to win the Prime Minister’s seat all to himself (he did share it with Likud’s Yitzhak Shamir), then some more back stabbing and more dirty tricks, and then the presidential palace, which he successfully incorporated into the promotional machine that bears his name (the Peres Center for Peace—for wire transfers include SWIFT# WFBIUS6S)…
It was all supposed to be over for the country’s favorite flea, and then I saw the reports about the new maneuver in Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, to change the way Israel receives its presidents. According to Army Radio, the new plan is to let the voters pick directly, through a popular vote, their symbolic figure who has no real function other than whatever hits his fancy.
OK, there’s one constitutional function for the Israeli president: after an election, he or she meet with all the new Knesset factions, and collect from them recommendations as to whom should be tapped to build the next coalition. The law determines that it must be the MK with the best chance to form a government, the president’s role is largely a formality. As is the fact that he signs the laws and treaties passed by the Knesset. Even pardons must be approved by the Minister of Justice, who has the power to veto a presidential pardon, if it’s been deemed unethical.
Because the role is strictly ceremonial, the Jewish equivalent of the Queen of England, the president has been selected, rather than elected, by the Knesset. Occasionally this process has included a floor fight, but no one, until this morning, has seriously considered picking the president through a popular vote. It’s just not worth it.
Enter the only other equally indefatigable politician in Israel’s history: Benjamin Netanyahu. As of today, in addition to all the other challenges he’s facing at home and abroad, Bibi is now thinking of changing the constitution regarding picking a president.
In Israel, you see, what we do to change the constitution is Bibi says “I want this change in the constitution” and we vote on it and it passes.
Very dynamic country, Israel.
Anyway, government sources have confirmed to Walla that it’s really the case, and that Bibi wants direct elections for president, which means that legislation covering this couldn’t possibly be ready in time for the vote this July, so Shimon will get to rule another year.