Participatory Democracy in Israel

An example of participatory democracy at work in Israel came to light today with the disclosure that two telephone company employes recently “sat in” on a conversation between Premier Golda Meir and Ambassador Yitzhak Rabin in Washington. One of them became so involved in the trans-Atlantic dialogue that he volunteered his own answer to a question Mrs. Meir put to her envoy, thereby bringing about his downfall and that of his eaves dropping colleague.

The incident occurred three weeks ago. Both employes were promptly suspended by the Communications Ministry pending a full scale inquiry. Simcha Dinitz, Mrs. Meir’s political advisor and Rabin’s successor, demanded at the time that they be summarily, fired.

The employes, whose names have not been disclosed, were described as Tel Aviv University students working temporarily for the phone company. By some electronic quirk they plugged into the Meir-Rabin conversation and, typical of all Israelis deeply concerned with affairs of state, decided to listen. At one point, Mrs. Meir asked Rabin his opinion of a newspaper article published in the U.S. the day before. Rabin asked which newspaper the Premier was referring to.

Before Mrs. Meir could reply, a strange voice broke in with the answer, “It was the well-known Washington Post.” the voice said. A startled Mrs. Meir said, “Yitzhak, this conversation is being overheard,” and apparently terminated it. A workers committee of the International Telephone Center has protested against the possible dismissal of the two employes.

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