Wake-Up Call - A Work Plan for a New Era in Israel
Israel is in need of a new vision, with hope and a horizon that accord with the feeling shared by most of us – that this nation, which created a miracle here over the past six decades, is capable of soaring to previously unknown heights in the coming six decades. It is all in our hands.
A professional and comprehensive Work Plan for realizing this vision is presented here.
In recent years Israel has been forced to deal concurrently with terror attacks of unprecedented scope and brutality, with attempts at delegitimizing its national image in both the regional and international arenas, with a serious social crisis, and with a severe economic recession. There are currently signs of improvement in both the security and economic arenas, and of a gradual return to “business as usual” along Israel’s long run trajectories.
The problem is that these trajectories – which reflect the country’s national agenda since the seventies – represent very problematic trends that will be unsustainable in the long run. Since the seventies Israel has been characterized by slow economic growth, which has led to a relative decline in its standard of living compared to the leading nations in the world. Its rates of poverty and inequality are among the highest in the West, and they have been steadily increasing since the seventies. Inadequate education, combined with spreading corruption in government and society, only serve to exacerbate the downward trends.
The disadvantaged section of the population, which is not given the tools and conditions necessary for participating in an open and competitive job market, is growing at a much faster rate than the advantaged population that is financing the resultant welfare assistance. In a modern and open economy, which enables free movement of capital and labor from Israel abroad, those who continuously increase the already-heavy burden on the part of the population that pays taxes and serves in the army must understand that there exists a breaking point. Laws necessary for changing the long-run trends, which are already difficult to pass by democratic vote, will become impossible to pass in another generation or two.
Unless fundamental changes occur in its long-term socio-economic trajectories, the State of Israel will find it difficult to exist as a first-world country – or to exist at all, given its geographic location and the associated dangers. The severe crisis that has been steadily enveloping Israel’s society and economy is not an outcome of some preordained destiny. Its severity is not purely a result of terrorism or the worldwide recession. It is possible to stabilize the present situation and to dramatically improve the long-term outlook. What is not possible is to allow the pervasive mental block regarding our current national priorities to persist.
Israel stands today at one of its most important crossroads since attaining independence in 1948. The time has come for understanding the extent of reciprocity between providing security, empowering society, strengthening the economy, and enhancing governance. The time has come to set new national priorities, which find expression in this Wake-Up Call: A Work Plan for a new era in Israel.
The new national priorities must be derived from the State of Israel’s overall objective: providing liberty, freedom and security to the Jewish people in their national home, as a country with a Jewish character, a Zionist direction, and a democratic regime in which all its citizens – from all races and religions – enjoy equal opportunities, prosperity and quality of life.
National Security Work Plan. Preserving a Jewish-democratic state requires sustaining a solid Jewish majority, which must be maintained only by moral and legal means. To this end, Israel must initiate a separation from the Palestinians and determine the country’s borders, while aiming to reach a final status agreement within a set timeframe that provides for “two states for two peoples” between the Jordan river and the Mediterranean sea. If it becomes apparent that a final status agreement is unattainable, Israel must take unilateral action – including steps to increase the security of its citizens within temporary borders that safeguard its Jewish, democratic and Zionist identity – until the other side comes to its senses. Israel also has a very important role to play, with a much different emphasis than in the past, in strengthening the ties between the State and the Jewish and Israeli communities abroad.
Socio-Civic Work Plan. Achieving Israel’s supreme objective as a Jewish-democratic state requires that “this must be the land of choice,” as Herzl already understood over a hundred years ago. There should be no doubt that it is possible to build here an economy with rates of employment and income among the highest in the world, and a model society that demonstrates the will and the ability to care for its weaker members according to the best of Jewish tradition. Success in the socio-economic sphere must based on a joint sense of partnership – that must be reinforced and fortified – between all components of Israel’s population. This is the primary channel that will enable us to mend the rifts between Jews and Arabs, religious and the secular Jews, veterans and immigrants, and between periphery and center.
Education Work Plan. Education is the national infrastructure. A high-quality core curriculum common to all schools can provide each Israeli with an equal opportunity to realize his or her potential and to confront the challenges of the 21st century, while instilling values such as love of country and people, democracy and humanism, and the encouragement of excellence and tolerance.
Governance Work Plan. In order to realize the vision underlying the new national priorities, a concentrated effort is required to enhance the governance in this country – through a change in Israel’s system of government and by choosing a serious leadership with integrity, a sense of purpose, and who leads by personal example. This is the only way to produce public representatives who are personally committed to their electorate, a government in which all the ministers act in conjunction to achieve the same goals, and political stability that enables long-term planning and its implementation. Distribution of resources according to national rather than sectoral perspectives, according to new criteria that are clear and transparent, together with an uncompromising battle against corruption and other illegal activities – these are essential for enhancing the sense of social justice necessary for carrying out the wide-sweeping changes that comprise the new national agenda.
Israel is the anomaly of the Western world. There is no other nation with such dismal socio-economic features that have endured for so long, and yet has so many bright points of light in areas so important for its success. But this anomaly cannot be sustained for ever. Either the light will get brighter and spread to every corner of the land, or it will dim – with all the implications this has for the future of the State of Israel.
Israeli society must remove its blinders and see how and where it has been led over the past decades. As a country facing considerable external dangers, the fact that our military might is founded upon socio-economic strength should be clear. We know what the problems are. We know where they can lead us. We also know how to solve them – and there is still time to do so. But this is a window of opportunity that will not remain open indefinitely.
The objective of the vision expressed in this Work Plan is not merely to ensure the continued existence of the State of Israel. This is a vision that ensures that Israel will continue to be a country in which we can all take pride, a vision that ensures the continuation and vitality of the Jewish people both within and beyond the State’s borders.