Israel must recreate its mainstream. In the long run, no country can survive without an economic, social and ideological backbone. Israel requires a new agenda, free from the old establishment and its bad habits. We are not talking here about our rights but our responsibilities. We are not talking about more benefits but a joint effort. It’s not about the establishment of another special interest group but the search for a better way to hitch up most of the public to the broken down wagon of Zionism.
To paraphrase the famous declaration from former US President John F. Kennedy, we have to ask ourselves what we can do for Israel, not what it can do for us.
An entire generation has checked out of taking part in the Israeli fate, an entire generation is absent from the day to day running of things, from the politics of it, from the need to serve in the military for the good of everyone. An entire generation is uninvolved because of reasons, which may be justified or just indulgent, humane or selfish, understood or perplexing. Its now the time for this generation. If we turn up our noses at the political system, then we need to come up with an alternative. If we don’t like the system, we don’t have the privilege of complaining but we do have the right to try and change it. The generation of checked out Israelis has learned – during its years of not being involved in public life – to manage, to wheel and deal, to finance and to compete. The time has come to use that experience where it is so crucially needed.
40 percent of the female population aged 18 years did not go into the army during 2006 and no one raised an eyebrow. We need to be those that do. The country’s basic values have been blithely thrown into the trash bin of history. We need to retake center stage: educational excellence was once the focus of Jewish culture. We need to support education. The sharing of the security burden was once the interest of the entire society. – We need to demand the entire society take part. Public discourse has turned violent, insulting and petty – we need to return sanity to the debate. The way in which the country has been run in the past has led to some amazing accomplishments by any one’s standards – we need to mobilize the best of the CEOs to take part in the thankless task of reforming the civil service and returning the ability to govern to the government.
Saving the house
We need to start at the very beginning. However systems already in place need not be rejected nor achievements from the past dismissed. It is infantile to cling to the belief that everything must be destroyed and started from scratch. Compelling drama produced by election campaigns does not make good government but a boring, highly detailed mosaic spread across the entire spectrum of life does.
The book “State Building: Governance and World Order in the 21st Century” by Dr. Francis Fukuyama chooses to quote Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci (recently adopted by the Green party in Germany): “Progress is not achieved through utopian dreams but through a long process that engages the establishment.”
Long roads are boring. They produce results not headlines. On the banks of every river in Europe sit beautiful castles which perpetuate the culture of the continent. The person who laid the cornerstone never got to see them, the architect who designed them saw them only on paper, the king that financed the building allowed his son or grandson to cut the ribbon on opening day.
Every economy knows that the key to success is not practical but psychological. The first indication of the sickness is the Israeli resignation to “that’s the way things are”. We have lost the confidence in our ability to change things. The society, said Fukuyama, cannot exist without trust. The process – any process – needs to begin by restoring the trust. The first objective is not to turn the country successful but to remind ourselves that it knows how to succeed.
Before Israel was a State, it was an idea. The nation that brought monotheism to the world, that created social justice; a moral code that is embraced by all of humanity; returns to the place where it all began.
If the exile was punishment, the establishment of the State was the moment that we stopped expecting to be pardoned. The Holocaust – the defining event of new Jewish history – taught us that we don’t wait for others. We take our fate in our own hands.
Read part I of "Now is the time"