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Israeli Diary:
The Portrait of a Young man as a Member of the Knesset

By: Gad Nahshon

When Israel's trade union's organization, the so called Histadruth Hadasha (The new Histadruth) shocked the country by its violent wild general strike, I had the honor to meet a young man who is a member of the Knesset's Tsomet faction (which is today a member of the Likud Coalition) and cabinet. It is the well publicized party of "Rafue' (Eitan).

His name is Elizer ('Moodi') Sandberg. When elected to the Knesset he was its youngest member. He is 30 plus today and a lawyer from Haifa. In my eyes he is certainly a member of a new brand of Israeli politicians. He is a member of the post Six Days War generation. Sandberg also looks much younger than his age. He is a member of a few committees in the Knesset including the economic one and is a chairman of Tsomet. He served from 1990 as the party's general secretary and legal advisor. Why did he join Raful's right wing party? "During the Intifada I served as a military prosecutor and my job was to bring our soldiers to court. It changed my political views and I moved to the right or to the national camp", said Sandberg.

Why is the prestige of the Knesset so low? Why do many Israeli's think that the quality of Israel's legislative branch is very low? Perhaps our election system stimulates mediocrity and scares away the good political talent. "Moodi" did not agree with me and he explained why. "Today our Knesset is being exposed to the media. We live in the age of communication. In the past the media respected the privacy of the members of the Knesset. It was not as aggressive as it is today. So we are not less qualified than the former members of the Knesset. Their doors were closed. I must, also explain the essential change in the character of the Israeli party system. In the past each party had its bosses.

Today each party has primaries. We democratized our political establishment. So I have to be known to the public and I need the exposure that the media provides. The media gained a lot of power. But as you know the media cherishes the wrapping and not the essence of serious ideas. It cherishes the superficiality. So it can help but also it can destroy good people too." Sandberg himself is doing very well in Israel's popular media i.e. television. He is a very active and creative member of the Knesset. He is a sophisticated smart person. And he will maintain a good political career. Also he is going to serve as a deputy minister of education in the near future.

As to the quality of the Knesset's legislation - Moodi argued : "The image of the members in the media is not positive but the quality of our laws are high. As you know people all over the world do not like politicians." Should we change our election system? "Yes. I will divide Israel into 20 districts. Each one will elect 3 members for a total of 60. And the other 60 will be elected by the parties. I think that we need a written constitution and while I support the direct election of the Prime Minister we have to revise some elements of the law.

What do you think about the prospect of a Palestinian State? "We are against its establishment. But, sad to say, the idea today has momentum because of the Oslo agreements. We need damage controls. From my vantage point Arafat is a crude blackmailer. Peres sold out our future in Oslo because he promised further redeployments but to evacuate the territories before the permanent agreements were signed was a terrible myopic mistake. We must test Mr. Arafat's credibility right away. For example, I'll not move before he gives in his idea of Palestinian return tot he West Bank (Refugees)."

Sandberg remarked to me that there are many issues to be discussed with Arafat, not just the issue security. For example: the issue of water is a crucial issue in the Middle East: " First one third of Israel's water supply is located in the west bank. Second, there is an acute danger of water pollution. In principle if they will be able to pollute our water it will be a disaster for Israel. Let me go on and declare that we can build a bridge of peace. The water example means that we should negotiate a peace by which the two sides would not be the losers, only the winners. Jordan expressed this kind of a will for a true peace. By establishing a common system of desalinization projects we would contributed to the victory of a permanent peace. Why? They would not attack them or bomb them."

Sandberg wants to integrate Israel into the 21st century. He believes in the superiority of the liberal capitalist economy. He believes in privatization and he fights against the Israeli Bolshevism: "Stalin and Lenin are dead. I suggested in the Knesset to dismantle the First of May as the Labor Holiday. And I am against the Histadruth using its power as a network of trade unions against the Likud government. Its last general strike in Dec. 1996 was a political me," said Moodi. He also told me that Israel should allocate more resources to combat assimilation of Jews in the Diaspora. "We should invest in the future of the Jewish people," he remarked as he prepared to leave for Jerusalem.

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