President Rivlin makes ‘Israeli Hope: Towards a new Israeli order’ address at the 15th Annual Herzliya Conference, marking a year since his election.
In the speech, the President stressed;
The make-up of the ‘stakeholders’ of Israeli society, and of the State of Israel, is changing before our eyes
In the State of Israel the basic systems that form people's consciousness are tribal and separate, and will most likely remain so
If we do not reduce the current gaps in the rate of participation in the work force and in the salary levels of the Arab and Haredi populations - who are soon to become one half of the work force - Israel will not be able to continue to be a developed economy.
The President posed the following challenging questions;
Are we, the members of the Zionist population, able to accept the fact that two significant groups, a half of the future population of Israel, do not define themselves as Zionists? They do not watch the torch-lighting ceremony on Mount Herzl on Independence Day. They do not sing the national anthem with eyes glistening.
Are we willing to give up military service, as an entry ticket into Israeli society and economy, and settle for civilian or community service?
Are the Arab and Haredi publics willing to commit to contributing their share in molding Israeli identity and the Israeli economy, and to participating in civil national and community service, with a sense of responsibility and commitment?
The President stressed that;
The Haredi, the secular, the religious, or the Arab individual must not feel that the issues most sensitive to them are in danger or under threat.
The sense of security that my basic identity is not threatened is a fundamental prerequisite for the ability of each one of us to hold out a hand to the other.
No tribe is exempt from proposing solutions to deal with the challenge of defending the security of the State; from facing the economic challenges, or maintaining the international status of Israel as a member of the family of nations. Partnership demands responsibility.
The developing Israeli mosaic offers a tremendous opportunity. It encompasses cultural richness, inspiration, humanity and sensitivity.
President Reuven Rivlin this afternoon, (Sunday), addressed the 15th annual Herzliya Conference of the Institute for Policy and Strategy (IPS) at IDC Herzliya, marking the first year of his term as the Tenth President of the State of Israel. In the speech, entitled "Israeli Hope: Towards a new Israeli order", the President spoke about the various developments within the different camps in Israeli society, and of the obligation as a society to actively work to expand the partnership and cooperation as a crucial prerequisite for the State of Israel. The President warned against the deterioration of Israeli society in light of the demographic trends and the alienation between the various groups in the society; Haredim, Arabs, national religious Jews, and secular.
The President said, “I have never regarded, nor will I ever regard any persons or groups comprising Israeli society as a danger, or, God forbid, as a threat. But, I am standing here today, because I have identified a very real threat in our collective suppression of the transformations that Israeli society has been undergoing in recent decades; in neglecting to confront what I call the ‘new Israeli order’, the significance of which I want to deal with today.”
The President continued, “In the 1990s (as can be seen in the slide behind me), Israeli society comprised a clear and firm majority, with minority groups alongside it. A large secular Zionist majority, and beside it three minority groups: a national-religious minority, an Arab minority, and a Haredi minority. Although this pattern remains frozen in the minds of much of the Israeli public, in the press, in the political system, all the while, the reality has totally changed.
“Today, the first grade classes are composed of about 38% secular Jews, about 15% national religious, about one quarter Arabs, and close to a quarter Haredim. While it is true that numbers and definitions are dynamic, neither identities nor birth-rates remain static over time. But one thing is clear, the demographic processes that are restructuring or redesigning the shape of Israeli society, have, in fact, created a ‘new Israeli order’. A reality in which there is no longer a clear majority, nor clear minority groups. A reality in which Israeli society is comprised of four population sectors, or, if you will, four principal ‘tribes’, essentially different from each other, and growing closer in size. Whether we like it or not, the make-up of the ‘stakeholders’ of Israeli society, and of the State of Israel, is changing before our eyes.”
The President added, “In the State of Israel the basic systems that form people's consciousness are tribal and separate, and will most likely remain so. The ‘new Israeli order’ is not a creative sociological differentiation; it is, rather, a reality with far-reaching consequences for our national resilience, for the future of us all. From an economic viewpoint, the current reality is not viable. The mathematics is simple, any child can see it. If we do not reduce the current gaps in the rate of participation in the work force and in the salary levels of the Arab and Haredi populations - who are soon to become one half of the work force - Israel will not be able to continue to be a developed economy. The severe and painful epidemic of poverty that is already having a major effect in Israel, will only expand and worsen.”
The President concluded by saying, “During my first year in office, I have worked to rouse each sector among us, to see the other sector - even when difficult - to hear the other sector, even when it grates on ones ears. To hold out a hand to them. At the end of that year, I now stand here before you, seeking to say these things openly and clearly, feeling deeply that Israeli society is today in need of a wake-up call. I call on you all today to join me in facing this challenge. I am a partner to anyone ready and willing to play their part in this task. I am here at your service, at the service of all of Israeli society. Only in this way, together and in partnership, shall we be able to rekindle the Israeli hope.”
In his speech, the President highlighted the need for four key principles of partnership for Israeli society:
The first is a sense of security for each sector, that entry into this partnership does not require giving up basic elements of their identity. The Haredi, the secular, the religious, or the Arab individual must not feel that the issues most sensitive to them are in danger or under threat. Whether this be the Haredi way of education in the Yeshivot; the national religious concept of redemption; the liberal lifestyle of a secular Jew, or the Arab-Palestinian identity. The sense of security that my basic identity is not threatened is a fundamental prerequisite for the ability of each one of us to hold out a hand to the other. To understand their pain and fears. The ability of us all, to establish a partnership here between the various sectors. We cannot do this unless we can learn to know each other, unless we gain an understanding of the most sensitive issues of each sector, and learn how to respect and safeguard them – even when this is difficult or even frustrating.
The second pillar is shared responsibility. When no tribe is a minority, no side can escape bearing responsibility for the destiny and the future of the State of Israel, and of Israeli society in general. So, no tribe is exempt from proposing solutions to deal with the challenge of defending the security of the State; from facing the economic challenges, or maintaining the international status of Israel as a member of the family of nations. Partnership demands responsibility.
The third pillar, is equity and equality. In order to ensure the partnership between us, we must ensure that no citizen is discriminated against, nor favored, simply because they belong to a specific sector. The current situation of structural gaps between the partners, whether in budgets, infrastructures or land, is intolerable. There are clear tribal aspects to poverty in Israel, and the majority of senior positions in the economy are held by the members of one or two sectors. In such a situation it is not possible to build a shared future here. In order to create a strong basis for the partnership between us, we will have to ensure an accessible ‘Israeli dream’ that can be realized by each and every young person, judged only on the basis of their talents, and not according to their ethnic or social origins.
The fourth, and the most challenging pillar, is the creation of a shared Israeli character - a shared ‘Israeliness’. Despite the challenges the ‘new Israeli order’ poses, we must recognize that we are not condemned to be punished by the developing Israeli mosaic – but rather it offers a tremendous opportunity. It encompasses cultural richness, inspiration, humanity and sensitivity. We must not allow the ‘new Israeli order’ to cajole us into sectarianism and separation. We must not give up on the concept of ‘Israeliness’; we should rather open up its gates and expand its language.
The President’s speech marked a year since his election to office, and a year of activity in the field of building and encouraging educational, economic and social cooperation across Israeli society. Accordingly, the the Herzliya Conference of the Institute for Policy and Strategy, in close cooperation with the President's office has created a steering committee composed of public figures and opinion leaders, along with academics and business executives from all sectors of Israeli society.
Over the next year, the committee will meet to discuss four subjects which will be held in four communities representing the main 'tribes' within Israeli society.
On the eve of the 2016 Herzliya Conference, the steering committee will submit a report to the President that will include lines of agreement and disagreement, as well as policy recommendations in the following four issues:
Equality, rights and obligations of the new Israeli agenda (service, budgeting, land, etc)
The community and state within the new Israeli agenda (education, public sphere, "cultural autonomy")
Joint economy and society in the new Israeli agenda (fighting poverty, equal opportunity, and the "Israeli dream")
What is a "joint Israeli society" in the new Israeli agenda? (Symbols / ceremonies, education).
The full report (4 chapters) shall be submitted to the President, leading up to the 2016 Herzliya Conference, during which an extended discussion will take place with Ministers and Members of Knesset, looking at the report's findings and recommendations, entitled "Israeli Hope: Towards a New Israeli Agenda".
The committee's work will be accompanied by a process of public participation process in which the public will be asked questions on the subjects of the various sessions through an internet platform. Furthermore, a public opinion survey with key questions about the above issues will take place.
Erez Harodi Ozim Tzilum