Most informed observers will agree that except for a very brief period during the War of Independence in1948 there has never been a real existential threat to the State of Israel, not even in 1973, and there is none now. Nor is there likely to be one for at least another 7 to ten years, the time Iran needs to get an operational nuclear weapons capability, should it decide to do so which by no means is certain.
The real threats to Israel, albeit non existential, are in the socio-economic domain, pertain to the integration of the Arab and Charedi societies into the economy and the huge disparities in income and education between all segments of the population the country.
Remaining real security challenges like ISIS, Hamas and Hizbollah relate more than not to the absence of an agreement with the Palestinians. The latter is, by itself, primarily a socio-economic issue, how to provide civil rights and resources to the Palestinians in consensus with them and the international community. The security challenges today are threats to individuals (terror attacks) and communities (Hizbollah and Hamas rockets), more than anything else.
But there is another threat, a critical one which does not threaten the physical existence of the state of Israel but endangers its moral and international legitimacy: The political right in Israel, after taking the reign in 1977, in power today and for 34 out of the last 38 years, has now begun to seriously undermine the universal principles on which the State of Israel was founded. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the UN Charter and the Declaration of Independence are slowly and systematically being replaced by the precepts of an ethnocratic republican democracy. In the new Israeli “democracy” under construction, non-Jewish minorities, by design (or re-design) are unlikely to get the equal rights they deserve. They will only get those rights and privileges that the governing (Jewish) coalition is willing to part with, basing itself loosely on ancient principles regarding the status of non-Jewish residents, its power in the Knesset and the impotence of the opposition.
We are witnessing an organized empowerment of an ethnic sovereignty of the Jews, based on the Torah which is usurping the sovereignty of the State of Israel which in itself was based on a combination of universal and Jewish values and international law. The methodical incorporation of the West Bank into Israel through continued settlement activity, scuttling any political arrangement with the Palestinians, is an integral part of this development.
Jewish sovereignty in Eretz Israel beats all, demographic concerns, international relations, international law, considerations of morality, the Palestinians, you name it, nothing will stand in our path and G-d is our guide. And explaining it to non-Jews from a position of strength, internal conviction and purpose will get us international support. That at least is the premise of the governing coalition.
The Jewish and democratic state is regressing into a Jewish state. A universal type of democracy is turning into a Jewish type of democracy and not a pluralistic Jewish one but an orthodox one. For most intents and purposes, as Prof. Shlomo Fisher from Hebrew University put it recently at a conference at Tel Aviv University, (I am paraphrasing), the “demos” in this democracy will likely incorporate only part of the population, the Jewish part.
All the signs are there, the first steps in the form of discriminating legislation have been taken and the opposition is being clobbered through targeted delegitimization in public and in the Knesset. Israel’s Palestinian citizens within the Green Line have just been bought off through the legislation of compensating economic measures and benefits that have been overdue for decades. The Palestinian population in the West Bank, not lucky enough to have Israeli citizenship, will have to do with what we decide to give them, possibly some kind of residency like Palestinian East Jerusalemites have received but most likely even less, a lot less – Bantustans or the like. Palestinian statehood has ceased to be an option, at least not a realistic one, if it ever was one.
To address this threat, time is critical because once the ethnocentric republican democracy has been established, there is no turning back – it’s a one way street and the result will inevitably be a crash, earlier or later, just like South Africa crashed. The only real way to counter this development is to go proactively all the way for the real thing, the revival of the approach that we almost went with when the State was created in 1948: The opposition must unite to reclaim Israel and make it a State of all its citizens with a constitution to safeguard the rights of all minorities and complete freedom of religion and from religion, a separation of religion and state. To preserve the State for the Jews we must make it a State of all its citizens, otherwise Israel, sooner or later, will be doomed by a lethal combination of ethnic strife, religious intolerance, state-sanctioned ethnic discrimination, international deligitimization and a brain-drain of all those who can make a better life elsewhere.
The path presently taken by the large opposition parties, Labor and Yesh Atid of pandering to the right, is counter-productive. It tries to create a make-believe reality by which taking a central position will in any way sway enough voters to see the light. There is no light at the center. There is no light and no path. None. The center is dark and a dead end. There are lights at either end, the dark lights at the religious ethnocentric republican end and the bright lights at the democratic end. The public will have to choose. And true leaders will have to show the way. And if we can’t make the case for the democratic end well enough, we will all have to bear the consequences.