“We need to create a new atmosphere of discussion, and even strive towards a new definition of Zionism,” Olmert said at an Israel Democracy Institute summit addressing the Jewish nature of the State of Israel.
During the conference, Olmert turned to the right-wing “Orange” camp, which bears a grudge against him since the days of the disengagement from the Gaza Strip.
“The religious Zionist community is in deep distress due to the public conflict which raised basic questions as to the State’s character and outlook on life. They dealt with the difficult experience of having to reconcile themselves with the concession of the territories and settlements. We must understand their distress and find a path for honest and deep dialogue with them,” he said.
'Broader definition of Zionism'
Olmert noted that the religious Zionist public was fulfilling its civic duties to the State, despite their frequent disapproval of the government’s policies.
“We must remember that in the State of Israel there live hundreds of thousands of people that for over 35 years served in the territories and participated in enforcing Israel’s policies there, despite their wholehearted belief that the State’s actions were erroneous and severely harmed our social tapestry.”
“Israeli society is composed of many sectors,” Olmert continued. “Religious Zionism, the population that lives on the periphery and has felt neglected for years; another sector opposes with all their might Israel’s holding onto the territories, and sees them as the source of all evil and would like to refuse to serve there.”
As for future plans, the prime minister said: “We must create a new atmosphere of dialogue and maybe strive towards a new definition of Zionism. It cannot be that Zionism is defined on the basis of supporting or opposing withdrawals. Anyone who believes in the people of Israel’s right to have a sovereign Jewish state on some part of the Land of Israel is a Zionist. Agreeing on a new, broader definition of Zionism is pivotal to safeguarding the internal unity of Israeli society.”
The summit, which was held under the title “Religious Zionism as an element motivating national discourse,” was attended by Professor Arik Carmon, Professor Yedidia Stern, Professor Shlomo Avineri, Professor Aviezer Ravitzky and Rabbi Avi Gisser, among other prominent academic figures.