The State of Israel is a success story. But there is no chance that it will realize the Zionist vision if it does not protect, with all its power, the principles of democracy.
The State of Israel is a success story. No defect on the way or in the result can minimize the achievement of Zionism, a small movement that arose at the end of the 19th century and became an enormous power. This is an achievement of Israeli leaders, who wisely set a Zionist vision of a Jewish and democratic country and created goals that could be reached in a changing reality. They also made serious mistakes, and not a few of the fallen we remember and mourn for today fell because of those mistakes. But the peace with Egypt and Jordan was an essential strategic asset, the Oslo Accords once again recognized that without an understanding with the Palestinians Israel could not realize its destiny, and the evacuation of the Gaza Strip made it clear that the Zionist dream of a Jewish and democratic state required disengagement.
But the anti-Zionist settlement enterprise is casting its shadow over Israel’s future. The settlements depend on ignoring the existence of a huge Palestinian population that Israel cannot control, and anti-Zionist steps that threaten to turn Israel into a non-democratic country where a dark style of religion holds sway. There is no greater harm to Judaism than this trend, which is unacceptable to a majority of the Jewish people and opposed to its tradition.
Avoiding general education, excluding women, opposition to military service and the establishment of special army units for the Haredim who serve; making a distinction in the army between Jews and non-Jews, calls not to rent apartments to Arabs and a decision not to open a school for them in Upper Nazareth − all these harm Judaism and the state. There is no chance that Israel will fulfill its role as the national home for the Jewish people if democratic principles, which are the foundation of Zionism, are impaired.
Preventing Iran from attaining nuclear weapons is an important goal, but Israel will not fulfill the Zionist dream if it does not act with determination to implement the strategy set out in the Oslo Accords, and adopted by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in his Bar-Ilan University speech, and in his word during the visit of U.S. President Barack Obama. The changes that have started in the Arab world require us to take a path that will strengthen Israel’s image in the eyes of the nations that are awakening. But the prime minister’s actions, as opposed to his words, actually raise suspicions that he has no such intentions.
There is also no chance that Israel will realize the Zionist vision if it does not protect with all its power the principles of democracy. The withdrawal from democracy hurts its Arab citizens and distances most of the world’s Jews from Israel. If this continues, it will also cause a reexamination of the commitment of many Israelis, young and educated, to their country.
Israel’s future is bound up in the peace with the Palestinians and our neighbors, and in a true commitment to democracy. On the eve of Independence Day the test of the new government is in its firm leadership of the country to realize this future.