Israel at 60 – Challenges on the Road to Tranquility Raphael Cohen-Almagor
Preliminaries • Israel is still in process of development and undoubtedly it will face further tests. • Never a dull moment. • Missing component: Tranquility.
The main challenges • Relations with Neighbours • Integration of the Israeli-Palestinians • State and Religion • Economy under Stress.
Neighbours • Authoritarian regimes surround it. • The key factor for success is its relationships with our neighbours.
Preliminaries • Israel survived seven wars, Iraqi Scud attack, and two Palestinian uprisings in 60 years of independence. • It is hard to maintain normality under such a hostile environment.
Preliminaries • Security expenses exhausts a third of our budget, leaving insufficient resources for the development of other spheres. • The constant security threat destroys the tourism industry and preempts external investments essential for economic growth.
Arguments • I argue for ending the occupation • I argue for strengthening democratic values
Arguments • I argue for accommodating the interests of the Israeli-Palestinians, striving to safeguard equal rights and liberties for all citizens notwithstanding nationality, religion, race or colour, and insisting that citizens have also duties to fulfill.
Arguments • I argue for separation between state and religion
Israeli-Palestinian Conflict • Between the Jordan River and the sea there are now about 7 million Israelis (among them 1.3 million Arabs/Palestinians) and 4 million Palestinians. • The annual growth rate of the Palestinians is among the highest in the world. There is a need for separation in order not to reach the point of an apartheid state.
Occupied Territories • Ending the occupation • Historian Lord Acton (1834-1902) said: "Liberty is not a means to a higher political end. It is itself the highest political end... liberty is the only object which benefits all alike, and provokes no sincere opposition." • In 2000 I started my international campaign for “Gaza first”. • This idea was largely adopted by Prime Minister Sharon. • Sharon did not think we will get in return the Hamas and Qassams. • Still, we should have tried it. • Now we will be much more careful in carrying out unilateral steps.
Occupied Territories • Securing our borders • Building trust and good-faith • Upon having a partner and reaching agreement, withdrawing settlements and the IDF • Hopefully two (not three) state solution • 1967 Borders • The Fence
The Fence • For bridges, not fences • Turning point – Passover, March 2002, Netanya Hotel Park • Divorce • death toll has dropped by over 70 percent, and number of injured has dropped by more than 80 percent • The route should be fair
The Fence • The Fence should have been built along the 1967 Green Line, with some accommodations necessary to include large cluster settlements in the Jerusalem area and Ariel, and compensating the Palestinians in other areas. • The idea of using the Fence to create geographic-political facts that in effect make greater Israel and smaller Palestine is unfair, discriminatory, unwise and unjust. • The Fence should be moved, and it will. The questions revolve only about time, money and blood involved. • In the Bible, there is one word for both money and blood: "Damim". Israeli politics eloquently and forcefully explains why.
Occupied Territories • Evacuate isolated settlements • Consolidate economic conditions for Palestinians • Bolster security on both sides • Stop enlarging existing settlements • Dismantle checkpoints to make the lives of Palestinian civilians easier. • Develop the nautilus against rockets and other anti-rocket mechanisms
Occupied Territories • Clean the atmosphere: fight bigotry, racism, incitement and hate on both sides of the fence. • This includes a close study of the Palestinian and Israeli education curricula • Utilize the media to promote peaceful messages of reconciliation and mutual recognition. • Demand the Palestinians to fight down terrorism. Zero tolerance in this sphere. • The Right of Return • The refugee problem – international economic effort • Jerusalem • Mount Temple – International Zone
Society’s Profile No shared raison d'être • 20% wish to transform democracy into theocracy • 20% do not endorse the Zionist ethos • 20% of the population are immigrants from the former Soviet Union where no democracy existed
Schisms • In addition, Israel suffers from internal schisms: • between Israeli-Palestinians and Israeli-Jews inside the Green (1967) Line;
Schisms • between orthodox Jews and secular Jews; • between the ideological right and the ideological left – Peace v. Land, now transformed to Security and Demography v. Land
The Declaration of Independence The Declaration of Independence holds that Israel will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; that it will be based on the foundations of liberty, justice and peace;
The Declaration of Independence that it will uphold complete equality of social and political rights to all of its citizens irrespective of religion, race or sex, and that it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture.
Israeli-Palestinians • Formal v. Full Citizenship • Discrimination • Racism
Israeli-Palestinians • Arabic is one of the two official languages of the State of Israel. Therefore it should enjoy a dominant status and have the importance it deserves. • Arabic should be taught at every primary and high school together with English.
Israeli-Palestinians • Studies of all cultures and religions that exist in Israel should be made available.
Israeli-Palestinians • Delegates of the Arab minority should be represented, in accordance with their size in society, in the Knesset and in the government.
Israeli-Palestinians • Guaranteeing representation for a minority • Devolving power to local levels in just ways by just means
Israeli-Palestinians • At the same time, Israel would like to see from all its citizens, without exception, a real and strong commitment to the state, to peace, and to the struggle against terror.
Army/National Duty • Citizens who have a problem in serving in the army for religious, moral or national reasons should commit themselves to do national service for the required period of time (presently three years for men; two years for women) in their own communities, working to better the conditions of their own group. • Army service – pretext for discrimination
Questions • Can a liberal democracy allow minority groups to restrict the individual rights of society at large?
Live and Let Live • We need to differentiate between the symbolic aspects and the modus operandiaspects. As far as the latter are concerned, separation between state and religion should be achieved.
Religion and State • If an illiberal minority is seeking to oppress other groups, then most liberals would agree that intervention is justified in the name of self-defenceand liberty
Religion and State • The secular majority in Israel has every right to object to attempts which aim at narrowing its freedom of conscience and to broaden the authority of religious orthodoxy.
Religion and State • Democracy is supposed to allow each and every individual the opportunity to follow her or his conception of the good without coercion. • Israel today gives precedence to Judaism over liberalism. • I submit that on issues such as this one, the reverse should be the case.
Religion and State • Israel, being the only Jewish state in the world, should strive to retain its Jewish character. • The symbols should remain Jewish with some accommodations in order to make the state a home for its Palestinian citizens as well. • Shabbat should remain the official day of rest.
Religion and State • Palestinian villages and towns may make Friday their day of rest. • Hopefully, one day, when security considerations would become less dominant and pressing, and the Israeli economy could afford two days of rest, as is the case in many parts of the world, then Friday and Shabbat will become the two official days of rest.
Religion and State • while Shabbat should be observed, malls and shopping places outside the cities should be available for the many people who work during the week and do their shopping during weekends.
Religion and State • Public transportation should be made available for all people who cannot afford having a car and for those who do not drive. • The state should cater for the needs of as many citizens as possible.
Religion and State • Kosher shops and restaurants should be available and with them non-Kosher shops and restaurants for the secular, agnostic population.
Religion and State • Most importantly, the significant events in one's life: birth, wedding, divorce and death should be handled in accordance of the people's own choices.
Religion and State • If they so desire, people may involve rabbinate and other religious institutions in their private lives. • But this option should be left to them. If people wish to have secular ceremonies then they should have the ability to conduct them and not to be forced to undergo practices which mean very little to them, if anything. • The state should have as little as possible say in family, intimate affairs.
Religion and State • Along Hevra Kadisha secular burial services should be offered. • Today people need not travel outside the country to marry in civil marriage. • 10% of the population are gay/lesbian. The liberal state should address their needs as well and allow them to marry as they see fit.
Duties • Large sectors, mainly the ultra-orthodox, do not pay taxes, do not serve in the army, do not work; • yet, they receive state support allowing them to study torah. • Resources should be distributed equally to all sectors.
Duties • Every citizen is expected to pay in accordance with his/her abilities. • Israel should sponsor religious studies to the same extent that it supports university and other forms of high education.
Economy • Unemployment continues to be significant • Salaries going down in real terms (35% of lecturers salaries from 1997 till now). • Welfare benefits are cut. • Taxes are high and continue to rise. • Israel has the highest tax rate in the world, outside Scandinavia.
Economy • People are worried about their physical security as well as about their economic security. • About 70% of the population claims their expenses outweigh their earnings. • About 25% of the population are below the poverty line.
Economy • No natural resources: no gold, no silver, no diamonds, no oil • Lecture in South Africa • “All this mess for face cream?”
Education • Our greatest asset is education • But it is not in the government’s priorities • 20% cut in universities’ budget since 2001 • In 2007, a 90-day universities strike, longest in our history