Liberal Israel

Israel is according to its basic laws a Jewish and democratic state. The Jewish character of the state is ensured for the future, its democratic character is however distinctly not. The rapid demographic growth of the country’s Haredi (Ultra-Orthodox) minority means that Israel will have little choice but to curtail liberal democracy to ensure that Israel does not turn into an Afghanistan-style backwater of poverty, theocracy and medievalism.

How then will Israel be post liberal democracy? Israel will remain an open society with a free media and liberal political parties will be able run for the Knesset. However, there will be a police state to guard against enemies of open society and theocratic and other illiberal dissent against the liberal order will not be tolerated. Enemies of open society whether Jewish, Muslim or otherwise will be imprisoned. All youth will be required to perform either military service or in the case of Muslims and religious women civilian national service. Haredi youth will be required to perform military service like all Jewish youth. The core curriculum will be enforced on Haredi schools and preparation for the matriculation exam will become compulsory for all. There will be no state grants to yeshivot (Talmudic seminaries) which will be all privately financed and all state subsidies and state grants to yeshiva students will be abolished. Tuition for academic studies will be abolished to encourage Haredi Jews to study in academia. Israeli youth who do not learn a profession (whether academic or otherwise) will be sentenced to ten years in prison as will those who refuse military or national service. 

Israel will remain as democratic as possible yet will become less democratic than a liberal democracy. Illiberal political parties will not be allowed to run for Knesset and illiberal politicians will be disqualified from running for the Knesset. The political parties will be under the strict supervision of a German-style Office for the Protection of the Constitution. Israel’s new order will be consecrated in a new liberal constitution establishing Israel as a liberal Jewish state. Candidate lists for the Knesset will have to be vetted by the Israeli Office for the Protection of the Constitution as itself supervised by the Israel Supreme Court. 

The immigration of tens of millions of Median Jews without in most cases prior liberal and democratic experience will pose an additional challenge to Israel in addition to the vast challenge of building housing, schools and hospitals and creating jobs for a vastly expanding population. The largest community of Median Jews currently live in Turkey, a country with a distinctly anti-democratic political culture and most other Median Jews in the Middle East live in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Iran. These new citizens cannot be expected to immediately support liberal politics but the new political system will ensure that the political choice available will be limited to liberal political parties.

Median Jews will become the majority in Israel, only to be eclipsed decades later when the Haredim become the majority. The point when Haredim become the majority in Israel will be significantly delayed by mass Aliyah (Jewish immigration) of Median Jewry from the Middle East and beyond.

Israel’s Palestinian population will double in size with the Israeli redemption and enfranchisement of Judea and Samaria and Arabs will be integrated into the country’s politics. Since the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will be over will there be no obstacle for full proportional Palestinian participation in Israeli governments. All Israeli cities will become mixed cities. Jews will live in Nablus and Ramallah just like the Arabs will live in Ariel and Ma’aleh Adumim. 

There will not be censorship of the media but incitement against fulfilment of civic duties and against the liberal order will not be tolerated by the state. Israel beyond liberal democracy will become more democratic than Singapore yet somewhat less democratic than Israel at present. The main structures of liberal democracy will remain in place yet there will be certain limits that will ensure that the liberal order keeps the forces of illiberalism at bay.

Published by Daniella Bartfeld

Daniella Bartfeld is the founding director of the Aliyah Organization

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