We stand at the doorstep of a new year, 5784 on the Jewish calendar. The chasms between different segments of Israeli society that were swept under the carpet since the establishment of the state can no longer be hidden or ignored. There are those who have encouraged them, manipulating them to suit particular political interests, during the last years, without fear that these chasms shall erupt into slits which will tear apart the people and the country.
Yet the era of slits has passed and it seems as if the ambitious and relentless rush for “judicial reform” by the current ruling coalition in the manner in which it was done had opened a “Pandora’s box.” The policy which the government is attempting to execute makes the continuation of sweeping significant social issues under the carpet unrealistic and quite impossible.
Now, without anyone truly intent on dealing with them, or even knowing how, a series of extremely significant and worrying issues have risen up to the surface, unveiled and demanding solutions before the nations can continue its path. Similar to many other nations throughout the world which had to go through unimaginable hardships in order to reach a more or less stable political environment that was acceptable to the majority of the nation, we, too, now stand at the doorstep of a year in which clear rulings need to be made. Yet it is unclear whether the current government – or any government for that matter – can juggle all of the issues which have risen since the aforementioned Pandora’s box was opened.
It is no longer just a question of the judicial reform, rather a completely different reality in which meaningful and basic foundations need to be laid, values entrenched in a constitution based upon wide agreement, the anchoring of the duties and privileges of every citizen in the country need to be made clear while navigating core issues such as education for tolerance and Zionism, while finding the right place for Jewish identity in the educational realm – a hugely complex issue given the diversity of the country.
At this very moment, this appears to be like science fiction. Recall that the “Yihye b’seder – everything will be alright” mantra, held by Israelis which had basically enabled the creation and success of the Zionist project despite endless difficulties, is no longer enough to sustain it.
The public now demands clear decisions, even if that means engaging in a zero-sum game. And in this lies the very danger inherent in the situation as in a zero-sum game. One side wins all while the other loses entirely: the perfect recipe for disintegration and a civil war.
Thus, particularly now, when everything appears so dichotomous, so polarized, so uncompromising, much work needs to be done vis-à-vis the internal lack of security in the country. Law enforcement mechanisms need to be strengthened, in a manner that shall raise the trust and empathy between the general public and those whose job it is to protect it. How? By executing a policy of zero tolerance to violence and crime, equally and in an empathetic but completely uncompromising manner.
Currently, the boundaries in this realm are not clearly defined. Bullies have become kings, violent teens attack others, criminals shoot and murder other criminals and too often innocent civilians on a weekly basis, extortion has become a word with which every toddler in the country is familiar.
How can we move forward?
How can anyone grow, give trust, contribute to society and make any kind of decision about any issue of any significance when one’s own security is in jeopardy? And these are not a small portion of the population, mind you.
These are the majority of the Arab Israeli sector, the farmers who experience agricultural terror and extortion on a daily basis from criminals, businesspeople of all walks of life who have no choice but to pay exorbitant amounts of “protection” fees, victims of terror who are murdered or are injured because of the use of existing criminal platforms inside the country for the purpose of forwarding foreign harmful interests, such as Iran. In this regard, it was recently published by the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) that smuggled weapons from Iran were found to be destined to Arab Israeli criminals within Israel for the purpose of terror, and the list is still long.
Much before earning a living, education, and personal growth, a person must feel safe. That is the basis for everything and whichever way one looks at it, regardless of political, religious, or ethnic affiliation and/or geography, there is no internal security in Israel.
Law enforcement agencies are simply not well enough equipped for the multiple challenges which face them and it is not their fault. This is by far the first and most important basic issue which needs to be dealt with in order to stand on stable ground and deal with the rest.
I wrote a lot about the issue of crime in the last few years, and in great detail. I suggested a detailed plan for dealing with crime in the Arab Israeli sector, and means via which to deal with the terrible issue of extortion, even legislating the law that makes the punishment thereof much easier to carry out and much harsher, after which it was turned into a law by the current coalition. I have always felt passionate about this issue, yet at this moment in time I am more passionate than ever before.
A very crucial moment for Israel
We are at the doorstep of a crucial year, a year which shall impact Israel as a country and the Jewish peoplehood. In order to be able to stand up to the tremendous challenges which face us as a country and a people, we need to feel safe.
To achieve that goal, there needs to be a person who can carry out this mission, transcending politics, who can step out of the paralyzing dichotomy which characterizes everything in Israel currently and take care of the internal security, the crime and the violence which have risen to alarming heights. The current minister in charge of internal security is, perhaps, the least fit for the job.
These certainly are things for which it is important to fight. My war, on a personal and professional, political and public level, is the fight for a safe environment, such which shall create the platform upon which we can begin to heal our country and our people.
The writer is the founder and CEO of Ruth-Strategic Consulting, a former MK for the National Unity Party, a former deputy ambassador to Cairo, and a past adviser to former president Shimon Peres.