Israel has several institutions like other democracies: Elections, a parliament, a government, and a Supreme Court. But they do not function as independent or equal branches of governments and lack transparency.
First, Israel does not have a constitution and is unable to draft one given its desire to give Jews priority. A “Jewish State” contradicts basic democratic principles of pluralism, secularism, and equal rights.
Second, Israel does not separate between religion and government. It routinely passes religious laws on family, marriage, divorce, and immigration to prevent non-Jews from immigrating or remaining to artificially create a Jewish Majority.
Third, Israel does not give all Palestinians under its control the right to vote. It controls the West Bank and Gaza but does not recognize its Palestinians population as citizens. The argument that they are not part of Israel does not wash considering over 50 years occupation and a massive settlement project. Withholding voting rights contradicts any objective notion of Democracy.
Fourth, Israel does not separate between the executive and the legislative branch. All its government ministers including the Prime Ministers are also members of the legislative branch. This dual capacity violates separation of power, a prerequisite of a democracy.
Fifth, Israel does not have an independent supreme court. A truly independent court is created by a constitution not by the legislature. In Israel the highest court was created by the Knesset which expands and constrict its power. The controlling parties have significant influence in appointing the supreme court judges. Without a constitution the supreme court does not have guidance to determine which laws are “constitutional” and which are not. Additionally, since the supreme court is dependent on the Knesset it is not independent to pass judgment on laws passed by the Knesset.
The executive branch (prime ministers and ministers) has significant power. It is not bound by a constitution and has decisive power in passing legislation (as parliament) while acting on them as the government. They can intimidate the supreme court, control their decisions, and limit their jurisdiction.
It is possible to create a democratic government in Israel / Palestine which will override the deficiencies described above.
Josef Avesar is an attorney in Los Angeles and the founder of the Israeli Palestinian Confederation