Mike Prashker
Israeli Shared Citizenship Educator, Social Entrepreneur and Writer

Three Inter-Locking Liberal Imperatives for Israel

Three Interlocking Imperatives for a Better Shared Future
Three Interlocking Imperatives for a Better Shared Future

Liberals committed to shaping Israel’s future as envisaged in the Declaration of Independence must urgently reclaim the meaning and purpose of Zionism.

Liberally minded Diaspora Jewry everywhere must raise its voice boldly but with humility, appreciating the need to better understand Israeli perspectives. Likewise, Israelis need to be more aware of the issues facing world Jewry. When populist Israeli leaders advocate for the blocking of humanitarian aid for civilians in Gaza in contravention of international law, Jewish college students everywhere endure real-life consequences.

We are facing a three-pronged crisis around Israel’s security, democracy and society. Changing Israel’s trajectory therefore requires attention to three imperatives: 1) working towards Israel’s evolution as a mature liberal democracy; 2) shaping a fairer society for all Israel’s citizens; 3) re-igniting hope and commitment to secure peace with the Palestinian People, however remote that currently seems.

Critically, these three imperatives are interlocking. Neglect one – mature liberal democracy, greater societal fairness or secure peace – and the other two are ultimately as useful as any two legs on what was designed to be a sturdy three-legged stool.

Crucially this is to acknowledge the symbiotic connection between what are too frequently viewed and addressed as separate internal and external issues.

Given the circumstances of its founding, demographics, geo-politics and years of escalating attacks by its own government, Israel’s perseverance as an adolescent democracy is remarkable. To evolve as a mature democracy, however, the challenges will be great, even after the current government’s ongoing assault on democracy is thwarted and a pro-democracy government elected. Buttressing liberal democratic institutions alone will be insufficient – as Daniel Ziblatt and Steven Levitsky impress in their 2018 book, How Democracies Die, however well-designed the institutional “guard-rails” of democracy are, they are only as strong as the democratic culture they represent.

Israel therefore needs an unprecedented and sustained public educational effort to instill democratic values grounded on pluralism and fairness and a democratic mind set in which trust of elected leaders is earned not given, in which truth is sacrosanct and civility, participation, and restraint the norm. This must be driven by civil society, not beholden or confined to the formal state-controlled school system.

In “The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger” (2011) Richard Wilkinson and Kate Picket provided compelling evidence of how fairer societies, characterized by reduced income and opportunity gaps, are more resilient and successful.

In Israel, inequality closely aligns with the most dangerous internal divisions, between Jews and Arabs and secular and religious. This makes the advancement of societal fairness across all communities even more essential. It is long-overdue, and catalyzed by security needs, that this should include the extension of meaningful military or civic service to all Israelis.

Meanwhile, we must re-commit to working for secure peace. Just as one of the greatest symbolic achievements of Israel’s magnificent democratic protest movement has been to reclaim the Israeli flag, one of the ghastliest “achievements” of successive Netanyahu governments and his extremist partners – ably aided by our enemies in Hamas, Hizballah and beyond – has been to poison the very idea of peace, delegitimizing it as naïve and even treacherous. Striving for secure peace must be reclaimed as a basic value for the good of Israel and the Jewish People, just as it must be by every decent Palestinians.

With all this in mind, the London Initiative was recently co-founded by Sir Mick Davis and me to advance the three imperatives of mature liberal democracy, societal fairness and secure peace, adopting three operating principles:

Firstly, equal partnership between world Jewry and all citizens of Israel who share our liberal democratic vision, in alliance with others, including Palestinians who share our commitments to secure peace. Through partnership, world Jewry and Israelis will be more effective and improve our relations by overcoming prevalent misunderstandings. Hence, the work begun in London will not be a Jewish American – Israeli or “Jewish Peoplehood” endeavor. Half the participants will be drawn proportionally from across the Jewish world and one in five Israeli participants will be Arab citizens.

Secondly, the London Initiative will exclusively invite those who identify with our three imperatives as defined. While very important, we are not aiming to host values or academic debates, however well-intentioned. We will not be distracted by those who have proved adept at co-opting liberal inclinations to legitimize illiberal ends.

Thirdly, events since October 7th, including the rise in antisemitism, have shown many liberal Jews who thought otherwise, that the fates of all Jews and Israel are inter-dependent. We see a significant opportunity to involve large numbers of less engaged but highly accomplished like-minded Jews globally in shaping a better shared future.

For too long, Diaspora Jewry and Israelis have been driving in separate lanes. Our journeys are intertwined, and we need to merge our aspirations and efforts.
Diaspora Jewry has the right and responsibility to speak out and act boldly in partnership with likeminded Israelis, and we intend to help normalize this view.

Israel can and must continue its march towards the vision of the National Homeland for the Jewish People set out by the founders. By working in full partnership on these three inter-locking imperatives and engaging previously untapped liberal energies, capabilities and resources, a radically new trajectory can and will be charted for the benefit of all Israelis and world Jewry.

About the Author
Mike Prashker is an Israeli educator, social entrepreneur, writer and public speaker. He founded MERCHAVIM - The Institute for the Advancement of Shared Citizenship in Israel in 1998 and directed the NGO for 17 years before joining the Board of Directors. In 2014 Mike was appointed Senior Adviser for Strategic Partnerships at The Ted Arison Family Foundation where he led social cohesion initiatives, including "The Social Cohesion Leadership Program", until May 2024. In June 2024 Mike co-founded The London Initiative with Sir Mick Davis. Prashker’s book "A Place for Us All - Social Cohesion and the Future of Israel" (Alouette 2017) is published in a single volume in Hebrew, Arabic and English The book aims to contribute to the promotion of social cohesion by providing a precise definition, identifying geo-political, social and economic conditions conducive to its promotion and presenting a range of strategic initiatives for its practical advancement in Israel. While acknowledging Israeli society is in democratic crisis and at a critical cross-roads between accommodation and fragmentation, it also offers an optimistic re-assessment of the historical trajectory of Israeli democracy and inter-community relations.
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