Israel must return to its Zionist roots to move forward – opinion

Israel must return to its Zionist roots to move forward – opinion


THE WRITER addresses a right-wing-led protest against the government, in Jerusalem, on Saturday night. / (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

They claim that we don’t exist. The outcome of the elections is proof, they say. In other words, there is no right wing that doesn’t support Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, no Right that opposes closing Israel’s Public Broadcasting Corporation and no Right that thinks that Deri, a convicted criminal, should not serve as a minister in Israel.

The Right has become synonymous with a haredi monopoly over Judaism in Israel; with governance and fighting crime, yet only when you’re in the opposition without the need to back up words with actions; to tweet and incite against leftists.

If the voice of the silent Right, the statesmanlike Right is not heard and people will start to believe that there is no secular, liberal Right in Israel; no religious Zionism that isn’t a Smotrich and Ben-Gvir style national haredi; and that there is only the pro-Netanyahu haredi Right and Center-Left but no Center-Right in between the other two camps.

And if everyone is convinced that we don’t exist – the pragmatic Right on security issues, yet liberal on social and other issues – then the Zionist project in its entirety is in danger, serious danger.

When everything is black and white and when a war among brothers is raging on social media and in the streets, it shows we are indeed in danger. Our state is falling apart and turning into fractured autonomies. The melting pot is disappearing. Even the Zionist consensus is declining, falling to tribalism.

Students protesting against the judicial reforms in Tel Aviv. (credit: The Student’s Protest)

Whoever is trying to sell the public on the binary notion that half of Israel is Right and the other half is Left is nothing short of a con man. There is ideological chaos, like in The Matrix, what we are hearing is the opposite of reality.

Over the past few years, I had the privilege of being among Israel’s decision-makers, as a minister in the last two governments and as an MK. I am proud of my achievements as communications minister: improving infrastructure, deploying high-speed Internet throughout Israel’s center and periphery, and developing our economy.

That is, in my opinion, the mission of a politician: to leave a mark and to be tested by results and actions, not by words. I have a responsibility for what happens on my watch and that includes my mistakes. And now, as a civilian, I have a responsibility for what happens and what will happen.

For those who forgot, the role of journalism and the free press is to criticize the government, as others criticized me when I was a minister. I may not be a journalist but my job as a civilian is to use the freedom of expression and platforms at our disposal to criticize the government, thoroughly, fairly and seriously.

What went wrong?

I LOVE this country. I fought for it. My children will go to its military to protect it. I love its scenery, its people, the unity and the social cohesion. It is for that reason that there is no denying or ignoring that something went wrong. Supporters of this government are convinced the courts have become the biggest disruption to their lives over the past years. All the rest are convinced that this government is the disruptor.

At least everyone agrees that there is nothing reasonable or normal about the situation and I don’t mean the security situation. We have spent the past 75 years living under constant threat and fire. Arab terrorists try to kill Jews regardless of the government’s political orientation. So, what went wrong? Our domestic and social cohesion.

Let’s remember where it all started: Zionism, a national homeland for the Jewish people. This necessitates defending our homeland, settling, making aliyah and absorption. Yet above all, it is the vision of a model society, a light unto the nations. It is pretty simple, actually. It’s what every first grader should be learning, if only the majority of first graders were still enrolled in the basic Zionist educational system.

Now, ask yourselves: What do the Judicial Selection Committee, closing the public broadcasting corporation and the ensuing public debates have to do with these fundamental facts of our existence here? How do they protect our homeland?

Which Zionist ideology justifies that 40% of society risk their lives protecting our homeland, while the rest get a free pass to evade our collective responsibility? How can it be that all the Ben-Gvirs and Gafnis who didn’t serve in the IDF or the Deris who served a maximum three months are the ones sending me and my friends to war without the slightest sense of shame?

Using terms such as “second Israel” and “hegemony” are lame excuses covering up the fact that people have forsaken their commitment to solidarity. Why can’t a young haredi man do National Service in one of the wonderful haredi charitable organizations? Why shouldn’t a young Arab woman do National Service and give back to her community?

They ask: Why do we need any of this anyway? Why not ignore the problem?

The answer is that enlisting creates a sense of identification with our country. That is the means to loving it, not just searching for its flaws. While it is so much easier to turn to the blame game, we must do what is right. And to do so we need a government that believes in Zionism. We need a Zionist government.

A Zionist government is a government that is also committed to the ideal of a model society. How can we possibly explain such a strenuous effort to reinstate as a minister a twice-convicted criminal offender?

I will not pay any lip service to this farce that calls itself “fully right wing.” It provides governance and is fighting crime? All we get is terrorism, attacks on police stations, chaos in the south and endless shootings in the streets.

Instead of saying who we are against and who we are not, we need to be able to say who we are. I know who I am: right wing, liberal, and a proud and relentless Zionist. And I know that, like me, there are many others, thousands, indeed tens of thousands of right-wing, proud, secular Jews, as well as religious Zionists who do not identify with Smotrich.

And I know that the only way back to the right path is to return to our roots, our Zionist fundamentals. The only way forward and the only way to safeguard Israel’s future and character is the Zionist way.

The writer is a former communications minister.

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