We know from everyday experience that Israel has the commercial and cultural resources to succeed brilliantly at global competition. We see it changing daily into a large, impressive city-state with a great economic potential. We see a demonstrated power to acculturate new generations of immigrants and minorities into a vibrant, Hebrew-speaking civil society.
At the same time, we know that, like all small countries networked to global realities, Israel cannot solve its diplomatic, economic, and environmental problems alone, that is, without the cooperation of other regional and global powers. Our economy cannot survive political isolation any more than our democracy can. The occupation is ruining our lives.
Internally, too, we are undergoing enormous changes. A quarter of Israel’s first graders are Arab citizens, and a quarter are ultra-Orthodox. Will either group grow up to imagine living in a state with room for the other, or for that matter, with a secular Israeli middle class that drives the economy and expects to be a part of the Western world?
IN THE FACE of this crisis, Israel’s government, and even its official opposition, have been nursing old grievances and worshiping old heroes. They argue, vaguely, that a Jewish state cannot be a state of its citizens. They insist on the region’s acceptance of Israel as a Jewish state, and routinely host Diaspora Jewish leaders as if they exercised quasi-official power, implying that Israelis and Diaspora Jews are somehow parts of the same trans-geographical nation, united by birth and commandments, and that a Jewish state must naturally favor legally Jewish individuals over other citizens; as if the state were not a social contract, but an expression of some common Jewish personality; as if the Hebrew cultural distinction of Israel were not evident to all, Arabs and Diaspora Jews alike.
The State of Israel, in other words, exists. It is time for Israelis to recognize it. It is a Hebrew-speaking society of over seven million people, whose Jewish character is hardly in doubt. That Israel can take the Hebrew language for granted is Zionism’s great triumph. Israelis need need no others. That Israelis celebrate national holidays, which draw on the traditional Jewish cycle, is a source of both joy and artistic restlessness. We do not need to legislate the identity or religion of Israeli citizens, or privilege any clergy or bloodline--on the contrary, these must grow organically, as in all modern democratic states, from the free choices of individuals and congregations.
We must, in short, stop treating the democratic principles and federal pluralism we see all over the Western world as if these amount to an implied criticism of Israel, but rather we must see them as an invitation to move to normalization. We must let Israel’s robust culture compete. We must stop violating, not only international norms, but the genius of Zionism itself.
ISRAEL URGENTLY NEEDS a new, broadly democratic party that realizes the principles of Israel’s Declaration of Independence: The state, that document says, “will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.”
This party will be an organization with a clear charter. It will welcome Jews and Arabs, secular and pious, young and old, who accept the basic principles of liberty--who see tolerance enshrined in law as the great achievement of civilization. It will organize from the grassroots: in homes, on campuses, and on the web. It will offer a new social contract whose main points are as follow.
1. Peace. Members of the party will work for a two-state solution. We see two-city states, Israel and Palestine--together, after all, no bigger than greater Los Angeles--maintaining cultural distinction but continuing to integrate economically. We believe Israel has an urgent interest in cooperating with the Western powers to facilitate the rise of Palestine’s entrepreneurs and civil society; this means removing, even before a peace settlement, all the barriers of occupation to the movement of goods and talent within the Palestinian territories and between Palestine and the region. We look forward to economic cooperation, shared jurisdictions, from water to bandwidth, and a common market with Palestine and Jordan. We welcome the presence of appropriate numbers of international forces to maintain calm. We aim to create a Mediterranean Union, anchored by Israel and Turkey in partnership. We aim to achieve a bilateral defense pact with the United States.