Statement of the problem:
Israel is going through significant political turmoil. Half a million people are demonstrating. Leading high-tech entrepreneurs are considering moving out of the country. High-ranking military officers are threatening to stop serving. There is fearthat the ruling coalition, by changing the judiciary system, will undermine, if not abolish, democracy.
Israel was established to give shelter to Jewish people threatened by antisemitism worldwide. The father of Zionism, and thus of the country, Theodor Herzl, propagated establishing a Jewish state where Jewish people could protect themselves. The message was heard and followed. The pogroms in Ukraine, Poland, and Russia made many Jews into Zionists, and an immigration wave started to the promised land. The wave became a tsunami after the Holocaust, followed by the emigration of Jews from the Muslim world whose life was threatened as the establishment of Israel was rejected by the Muslim countries.
Israel had a mission and fulfilled it to provide shelter to the persecuted. After seventy-five years, however, the question arises: what is Israel about beyond offering protection? And on that, there is no agreement.
A specific part of the secular population sees Israel as a secular state where religion and state are separate and one that is willing to make concessions to secure peace with the Palestinians. The orthodox religious population wants a religious country governed by the Torah. They do not serve in the army or are involved in building the country economically. Their focus is the continuity and preservation of the Jewish culture and religion. The third group, the settlers, consider themselves true patriots of Israel. They are settling in the land of greater Israel, the land God promised the Jewish people, the land, however, the Palestinians see as exclusively their own.
The three groups have different and incompatible interests. The conflict has been there for years. It has become a crisis now as the right wing of the political spectrum, joining hands with the settlers on the extreme right and the orthodox religious parties, created a winning coalition and is trying to pass a judicial system reform that the opposition claims will end democracy and establish a right-wing religious dictatorship.
Whether the reform will pass or not will not solve the conflict. To solve it, Israel needs a new common vision beyond being a country to escape to. A common vision that will unify the three groups. A newly articulated vision that includes a workable and acceptable definition of who is a Jew. There is no agreement on that.
Developing a shared vision is a significant and complicated task, but it needs to be done. A leader who can lead to it is what the country needs. If no shared common vision is achieved through a democratic exchange, the conflict between these groups will become increasingly unbridgeable. Those who can leave will do so, which will endanger the economic and military base of the country, putting it in danger of survival.
Companies should change their mission and business model as the market needs change. So should countries. And Israel is not the only one that needs to redefine its goals. America was an immigrant country, inviting the oppressed and persecuted…. Does it still ring true?
I was consulting with the prime minister of Montenegro. There were demonstrations in that country. I told him the same message I am saying here. Your mission as the father of the country, separating it peacefully from Serbia, has been accomplished. Where do you lead next? If the county is to operate smoothly, people need a vision that gives them hope and builds their trust in the system.
The post-Soviet Union Russia needs a new vision too. And Saudi Arabia and any other country experiencing a high rate of change. What does “Great” Britain stand for now that it is not the empire it used to be? And come to think of it; humanity needs to rethink where it is going too. More economic growth does not mean a better quality of life. It may produce a better standard of living, but it is not the same as a better quality of life. We need to move from more is better to better is more. A new vision we can share if we are going to survive.