We, the Jews of the Diaspora, usually refrain from meddling in Israeli politics. We love Israel and we are committed to Israel. But we are always cautious to respect sovereignty.
But today, Israel’s future hangs in the balance. The Jewish people’s one and only state is facing imminent existential danger. A combination of unprecedented external and internal threats has brought Israel to the brink.
The external threat has three dimensions. Over the last year, Iran has amassed enough nuclear material for several nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations, and soon could pose a direct threat to Israel's security. Hezbollah is turning into one of the most dangerous and powerful terrorist organizations in the world. It has acquired the capability to attack Haifa, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. The Palestinian Authority’s legitimacy is being undermined by Hamas and other radical forces. Consequently, the West Bank is heading toward chaos and violence.
True, Israel is strong. If challenged, it will fight back fiercely — and win. But the three dimensions of the external threat are creating a new regional reality. The danger of a multi-front war is greater than it has been for decades.
But Israel also faces an unprecedented internal threat comprising three dimensions. The judicial reform instigated by Justice Minister Yariv Levin, which has received a passing vote in the Knesset, heightening the tension, is perceived by the Right as essential and by the Left as an assault on Israel’s liberal democracy. The coalition’s dependence on ultra-Orthodox and ultra-nationalist parties hinders Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from implementing his moderate-conservative worldview. And the internal fissure alienates Israel’s tribes from one another and accelerates the discord between them.
The three dimensions of the internal threat are opening historic wounds and inflaming hate. They are sweeping Israeli society into a vortex of internal conflict the likes of which has not been seen since the founding of the state on May 15, 1948.
Israel is an exceptional, great nation. The founding of the Jewish state after the Holocaust and its spectacular success over the last 75 years make it a true human-made miracle. But now Israel is in jeopardy. The unprecedented events of 2023 are eroding the social compact and endangering national security.
As extremists insist upon advancing anti-liberal legislation, hundreds of reserve pilots and thousands of reserve soldiers have announced they would not report for duty. These severe developments led former IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot to warn that the combination of the internal and external threats makes Israel more vulnerable than it has been since 1973.
This is the reason a Jewish leader like myself can no longer keep quiet. As I watch Israel tear itself apart while its enemies grow in strength – I must take a stand and speak up. “A house divided against itself cannot stand,” said Abraham Lincoln before the American Civil War. Neither can an Israel divided against itself. As Jews, we must learn from our tragic history.
There is only one way to overcome this multi-dimensional existential crisis: national unity. Just as Israelis joined hands on the eve of the 1967 war, they must join hands now.
And there are only three men who can bring about this unity: Benjamin Netanyahu, Yair Lapid and Benny Gantz. On their shoulders, these three leaders bear a historic responsibility. Therefore, they must sit down together again immediately despite this vote to discuss frankly the nation’s alarming predicament. And they must overcome personal interests and political differences so they can form a strong and stable emergency government.
Throughout its history, Israel has done wonders. While making the desert bloom and providing safe haven to millions of Jewish survivors and refugees, it overcame most of its enemies and reached peace with six Arab nations. But the challenge of our time and our generation is internal division. And the only way to confront it is to renew the alliance between the major Zionist forces.
We should not wait for violence to break out. We should not unite only when attacked. We must realize now that only a coalition of moderates can free Israel from the stranglehold of homegrown zealots and fanatics. Only national unity can prepare the nation for a supreme national test it may soon encounter.
At this critical juncture, world Jewry turns its eyes to the Jewish state, praying for its survival and beseeching it to heal the rupture tearing it apart from within.
Hence, as the president of the World Jewish Congress, I call upon Netanyahu, Lapid and Gantz to rise to the historic challenge. As a Jew who knows them well and loves Israel, I tell them they have no other choice. Not only the Jews of the diaspora, but the resounding majority of Israelis — and 3,000 years of Jewish history — are calling on the Jewish State to unite.
There is only one choice. The writing is on the wall.
Ronald S. Lauder President
World Jewish Congress
- Publication of this message has been fully funded by Ambassador Ronald S. Lauder.