Israel: A Jewish, democratic and secure state - opinion

A potential new Zionist vision for the four camps (Right, NNC, Center and Left).

 AN IDF SOLDIER posted near the Syrian border bears a message of responsibility on his uniform. The desire and thirst for security is as much part of the Israeli DNA as the Jewish and democratic pillars. (photo credit: MICHAEL GILADI/FLASH90)
AN IDF SOLDIER posted near the Syrian border bears a message of responsibility on his uniform. The desire and thirst for security is as much part of the Israeli DNA as the Jewish and democratic pillars.
(photo credit: MICHAEL GILADI/FLASH90)

In last week’s op-ed I discussed the emergence of a New National Camp (NNC). Throughout modern Israel’s short history the middle of the Israeli political spectrum has moved rightward. The middle of that spectrum today is not center, the new middle is right, it is the NNC. This week I present my proposal for a new vision for how to view Israel, the vision of the NNC.

In recent years, Israeli political campaigning on personalization has distanced many Israelis from having a discussion on ideology and big ideas. Political parties have been judged not by their vision but by their leader. However, for an ideological camp to survive it must have a vision, a grand strategy that upholds their values while navigating the day-to-day reality of running a country. Ideally, the leader of each camp would run on these big ideas, and the Israeli voter would shop in the marketplace of ideas and choose what suits them best. I present a potential new Zionist vision for the four camps (Right, NNC, Center and Left).

A political triangle

Israel defines herself as a Jewish and democratic state. There are political experts who view the Israeli political spectrum in this context as linear, with the Right leaning toward the Jewish side, the Left leaning toward the democratic side, and the center somewhere in the middle. But there is a crucial missing piece to the Jewish and democratic state model: security. Security is as much part of the Israeli identity as the other two pillars of the country. When Israelis view security they do so with a full spectrum of potential risks from enemy state armies to terrorist attacks to the criminalization and attempted isolation of Israel in the international arena. Many Israeli Jews have baggage.

Most Ashkenazim carry the Holocaust in their recent family history. Most Sephardim carry the exile from Arab and Muslim countries in theirs. Going back farther are the pogroms and Spanish Inquisition. Even further, the Hebrew Bible and Talmud are filled with stories of large armies, guerilla attacks and puppet governments that plagued the first two sovereign Jewish states and ultimately led to their destruction. This was followed by 2000 years of exile and hardship, with many generations growing up fearing for their own personal safety.

 Prime Minister Naftali Bennett at the Efraim Regional Brigade, May 17, 2022.  (credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO) Prime Minister Naftali Bennett at the Efraim Regional Brigade, May 17, 2022. (credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)

The desire and thirst for security is as much part of the Israeli DNA as the Jewish and democratic pillars. When you add security into the vision and as part of a definition of the state you promote security concerns as a major consideration, alongside the Jewish and democratic factors. It also reflects the main arena in which many political battlegrounds have been held in recent decades.

Instead of a simple line, I propose a triangle. On one side Jewish, on one side democratic, and on one side security. Each one of the four camps has their own definition for each one of the three pillars. The old Right remains on the Jewish side of the triangle and the left remains on the democratic side. Instead of suggesting that the center is somewhere between Jewish and democratic, I propose placing the center on the security side of the triangle. Security has become the most important factor of the center. The right will prefer to have a conversation on security over democracy and the left will prefer to discuss security over Jewish issues.

So where does Israel’s fourth Zionist camp fit in? I place the NNC in the middle of the triangle. The NNC is not leaning strongly towards any of the three sides, instead balancing the triangle in perfect symmetry.

Israel as a Jewish, democratic and secure state

All four camps within the Zionist spectrum can embrace the vision and new definition of Israel as a Jewish, democratic and secure state. Each camp will disagree on the weight given to each pillar, yet they will agree on the three key components that make up the joint vision of the state.

On sensitive issues, the old right camp of Likud, Smotrich and haredi parties will continue to place their weight on the Jewish aspect of the state at the expense of the democratic. They will suggest that in certain cases the Jewish core values trump security needs, such as conducting nationalist events despite the warnings of the security apparatus. The Left, led by Meretz and Labor, will continue to champion democratic ideals over Jewish ones.

They will also propose that sometimes democratic core values must triumph over security concerns, such as extending additional relief to Palestinians instead of clamping down in certain areas as warnings by the security establishment. When compromises become necessary, the centrist parties, such as Yesh Atid and Blue & White, will stand firm on the security pillar. They will insist security is paramount and, on the most sensitive issues, more important than either the Jewish or democratic pillars.

The New National Camp, standing in the middle, will find the correct balance between Jewish, democratic and security needs, and present solutions that resonate with most Israelis because each of those pillars will be given equal weight during the policy formulation and decision-making process.

It is important to stress adding a third pill ar is not meant to detract from the Jewish or democratic pillars. Rather, it completes the vision with this vital factor that I believe most Israelis already consider in their vision of the state today. Many ultra-Orthodox who do not accept the democratic nature of the state and many non-Jewish citizens who do not accept the Jewish nature of the state could embrace the security pillar. By doing so, accepting two-third of the state’s definition instead of half, they would feel more at home in Israeli society.

State of Israel 2.0

A frequent theme in Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s speeches is the chilling message that this third sovereign Jewish state is currently in that critical decade that the previous two did not weather. The baseless hatred and division of the nation was the cause of the Second Temple’s destruction. A departure from the personalization of Israeli politics and an embracement of a new joint Zionist vision can be the cure necessary to heal this divided nation. In this vision the core value of each camp is given its place, treasured and heard. Resetting the rules to reflect where most Israelis are today would be a game changer.

The NNC is in the best position possible to lead the country forward as the middle of this new paradigm. They encompass both flexibility and pragmatism, yet also carry clear ideological and philosophical roots based in Jewish values. The freshness of this new camp enables creativity, out of the box thinking and general openness to both old and new paradigms to resolve longstanding security, diplomatic, economic and social issues.

Just as the Center has replaced the Left as the main player on one side of the spectrum, the NNC can replace the old right on the other. A Knesset constituency that started with 20 seats could be just the beginning.

In the last piece of this series, I will explore the differences among the four camps on the terminology and definition of the Jewish, democratic and security pillars, and the NNC’s added value in these regards.

The writer was a candidate on the Yamina list for the 24th Knesset election.