This year finds Israel safer and wealthier than ever. During 2010, border
casualties were down to a minimum and the per capita GNP is on par with many
southern European countries. For this reason it saddens me that the country may
soon have to give up the identity it has worked so hard to shape over the past
six decades. Israel is headed toward a critical ideological junction that will
force it to choose between its Jewish identity and its democratic nature. At
this stage, and considering the extenuating circumstances, it can no longer keep
Armed with impressive economic achievements, the current
leadership has already made up its mind; it prefers to stick to the Jewish
identity and give up the commitment to being a full-fledged democracy. Last
week, a Knesset motion was passed to establish a committee that would
investigate the loyalty of several NGOs. These include organizations whose very
existence attests to the country’s democracy.
This is only the tip of the
iceberg. The government prefers to keep control of Palestinian land in the West
Bank, but doing so necessitates giving the people living on it full human and
political rights. But fret not: Under our current leadership, the Palestinians
are unlikely to gain their rights or their land.
IT SEEMS we are headed
toward a post-democratic Jewish state in which most Jews will be able to live in
financial and physical security. But what of those of us who will not tolerate a
There are many who cherish their democracy at least as
much as their religion. As an Israeli-born secular Jew who fought for the
country’s survival on both military and diplomatic battlefields, I believe that
democracy is more important than religion. This raises a number of
troubling issues. What will the country do with citizens, like me, after it has
surrendered its democracy? And if we choose to object to a non-democratic
country, where will we find ourselves? In jail perhaps? Are there enough cells
to accommodate us all?
I pray that my beloved country – the only one I ever had
– will never reach this point. It will be the end of the Israel I grew up in and
love so much.
So the question remains: Can the state still remain both
democratic and Jewish? The answer is, not as long as Palestinian land is under
Six decades of life here have afforded me the ability to
understand the Israeli mentality. The majority of Jews living here today prefer
ownership of the West Bank to ownership of democracy. This biblical piece of
land existed long before democracy was even thought of, which for many is a very
powerful reason to stick to it.
To quash the momentum directing us toward
this frightening junction, all those who believe in democracy as being at least
as important as religion – any religion – should stand together. Only a
united and democratic front can force governments to stay within the lines of
Israel’s democratic nature.The writer, a former chargé d’affaires in
Turkey and ambassador to South Africa, was director-general of the Foreign
Ministry between 2000 and 2001. Today he lectures at Tel Aviv University, Hebrew
University and the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya.