The state of our democracy – opinion

Tuesday of this week Haaretz together with the New Israel Fund and the new Israeli human rights organization Zulat convened a major conference in Jaffa to examine Israel’s state of democracy. Speakers at the conference included President Isaac Herzog, Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Transport Minister Merav Michaeli, Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar, Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, Regional Cooperation Minister Esawi Frej, the Minister of Environmental Protection Tamar Zandberg and members of the Knesset. Ayman Odeh and Ahmad Tibi from the Joint List.

Also addressing the meeting were former Chief Justice Dorit Beinish, Deputy Rabbi Moshe Gafni and many other prominent journalists, former high-level civil servants, including Shaul Meridor, the first crown chief, Professor Ronni Gamzu, the former deputy attorney general Dina Zilber, and others. . It was a day full of thoughtful and intelligent discussions.

Much of the day was focused on assessing Israel’s democracy since the establishment of the “Government of Change,” especially after what most of the speakers presented as the clear and present dangers that existed under the leadership of the defendant former Prime Minister Netanyahu. .

The speakers primarily made the expected arguments that, while there are still threats to Israel’s democracy and its democratic institutions, the democracy of the state of Israel today is stronger than it has been in recent years. After four rounds of elections and the absence of a national budget, during which time Netanyahu led the incitement against judicial institutions and weakened the independence of the media, the state of our democracy is better today.

MPs Tibi and Odeh stated that while it is good that Netanyahu is no longer prime minister, they both indicated that, in their opinion (which I share), some of Netanyahu’s worst policies have continued and perhaps even worsened under the new government. .

Joint List Leader Ayman Odeh speaks in Habima Square, Saturday May 22, 2021 (credit: JOINT LIST).

These include the expansion of housing and infrastructure construction in settlements in the occupied territories, the sharp increase in settler violence against Palestinians under the watchful eye and support of the Israeli army, and the continuation of the occupation without a plan. politician to renew the peace negotiations. with the Palestinians.

One of Israel’s leading lawyers, Michael Sfard, was more concise and direct. He said that while many Israelis talk about the new government that will restore a sense of normalcy to Israel, there is nothing normal in Israel. “Israel is not a democracy,” he said. “It cannot be a democracy and continue to control millions of people deprived of political rights.”

The Palestinian people did not elect the exchange government or the opposition. However, the Israeli government determines almost everything important in their lives without them having the most basic right to influence their decisions through democratic institutions. Israel cannot be a democracy and an occupying power at the same time.

Fifty-four years have passed since the 1967 war, which ended with Israel in control of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza. This is not a temporary matter. The exchange government does not intend to change the continuing Israeli control over those territories. The government does not plan to develop any type of initiative aimed at reaching agreements with the Palestinian people on the future of the territories. The coalition agreement with Labor and Meretz included agreements not to undertake policies such as settlement expansion, which could prevent and exclude the possibilities of reaching political agreements in the future.

But that so-called freeze is not happening. The Israeli government of change is incapable of undertaking any kind of bold new peace initiative.

There are too many divergent opinions on the issue of territories among the eight political parties that make up the government. I have no expectations of this government on the peace front. I hope the government and I demand that it not make the situation worse.

Settler violence supported by the Israeli army must end and violent settlers must be brought to justice. Settlement expansion plans must not be approved by the government. The Israeli government must not ban well-known and respected Palestinian human rights organizations and label them as terrorist fronts without presenting indisputable facts that prove their case.

Israeli citizens really need to wake up and face the reality that Israel cannot call itself a democracy and at the same time prevent millions of people from having full democratic rights.

Israel cannot label itself a true democracy when 20% of its own citizens – the Palestinian citizens of Israel – are “legally” designated as ineligible for collective national identity rights in their own country. While the exchange government is beginning to invest much more serious amounts of money aimed at closing the huge gaps between Israeli Jews and Palestinians, the issue of the status of Palestinian citizens of Israel is not just about the economic status gaps in the last seven decades. .

A democratic country that denies the rights of 20% of its citizens to be full and equal citizens cannot be a genuine democracy. These are issues that we, as Israelis, must come to terms with. Israel cannot be a democracy for its Jewish citizens and a Jewish state for its Palestinian Arab citizens. Israel cannot be a Jewish country when just over half of the people living in the territory it controls are not Jewish.

Jews and Democrats just don’t conform to reality, unless, of course, we keep fooling ourselves and continue lying because it allows us to be members of clubs from other democratic nations. But sooner or later the lie will catch up with us.

We must remember the famous words attributed to Abraham Lincoln: “You can fool all the people sometimes and some people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.”

The writer is a political and social entrepreneur who has dedicated his life to the State of Israel and to peace between Israel and its neighbors. He now runs The Holy Land Investment Bond.

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