Israel @ 100: Looking Ahead
At 64, the State of Israel Has Proven Its Vitality and Resilience. Still, Areas of Improvement Remain for Generations of Israelis to Enhance Their State
The Third Jewish Commonwealth has accomplished unprecedented growth and productivity in its first six decades, and continues to inspire and aid nations the world over with its ingenuity and technologies. Yet as a youthful country, Israel has much room for improvement, and the following summary enumerates a dozen of the most pressing issues facing the reborn nation:
- Electoral Reform – Israel’s current election system of party-list proportional representation has severely hampered the national leadership from acting decisively on behalf of its citizenry. Switching from a PR system to a relative majority or plurality voting system – election of candidates by district using a first-past-the-post/winner takes all mechanism – would increase MK accountability and government stability.
- Constitution – Israel has for 64 years relied upon Basic Laws and legislative statutes to govern the country, and preferred an evolving, piecemeal constitution to a single national document. In June 2006, Professor Abraham Diskin of The Institute for Zionist Strategies drafted a proposed Constitution which, while imperfect, serves as a useful basis for the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee to debate, amend, and adopt such a seminal document.
- Parliamentary Immunity – The Israeli legislature is plagued with rogue MKs who routinely undermine national security with virtual impunity. Statutes and/or Knesset by-laws should be enacted to severely censure acts of treason by those responsible for the wellbeing of the country.
- Judea & Samaria – Israel should annex the heartland of the homeland and offer Arab inhabitants the choice of permanent residency – with guaranteed human and civil rights including municipal and regional voting rights, or emigration with compensation. Jordan, which is several times the size of Israel and 3/4 of what was Palestine, has been the de facto Palestinian Arab state since 1921, and the Gaza Strip has been a 2nd Palestinian Arab state since 2005. There is no rational justification for a 3rd Palestinian Arab state, nor is it reasonable for the sole Jewish state to relinquish the most significant parts of its geographical identity, history, and heritage.
- Warfare – The State of Israel has done battle on a regular basis since its founding, and in recent memory largely because it fights its wars without the decisiveness and finality required to impose peace. No nation can tolerate deadly quasi-armies perched on its frontiers, hellbent on its destruction, striking at whim. This arrangement perpetuates conflict and ensures the renewal of warfare every few years. Rather, Israel should refrain from adhering to artificial timelines imposed from without, and conduct its defense until terror groups are defeated to a man.
- Chief Rabbinate – This symbolic office should be replaced by a re-established Great Sanhedrin of 71 sages, a body of Jewish rabbis and scholars serving the Jewish People in Israel and the Diaspora and which devotes itself to practical religious and spiritual issues rather than serving as nominal figureheads of the religious within the distinct political realm.
- Jewish Heritage Sites – While Israel has an excellent system of about 70 National Parks and Nature Reserves, several important sites from antiquity have little or no official identification and are not yet visitor-friendly. Such historical sites include: Modi’in, home of the Hasmoneans; the Maccabean battlegrounds of Beth Zur and Beth Zechariah; Yodefat and Gush Chalav, major locales in the First Jewish Revolt; and Betar, the last citadel of Shimon Bar Kokhba.
- Penal Reform – Prisoners – including bloodstained murderers, gangsters, and terrorists – currently receive financial benefits while in durance, in addition to the enormous expenses borne by the state on their behalves resulting from their incarceration. Instead, convicts should be made to pay for their jailing costs to alleviate the public burden and strengthen deterrence.
- Road Safety – Israel suffers from a high rate of motor vehicle deaths and injuries, which must be reversed with higher safety standards. The state should: raise the licensing age to 18; enact graduated licensing with mandatory in-class and in-car defensive driving training; enforce speed limits rigorously; re-test drivers every 5 years for road worthiness; raise safety standards on automakers; broaden roads in remote or difficult terrain and improve their lighting and signage; and impose stiffer penalties for driving with hand-held devices or without seat belts.
- Bedouin Relations – Despite recently improved relations with the Bedouin community in the Negev, largely a result of President Shimon Peres’ friendly overtures, Israel should define its relationship with the nomadic Arab community after broad consultations with the pertinent regional councils and the Bedouin sheikhs. Such an agreement or understanding would eliminate the unseemly house demolitions that occasionally still plague relations, and would determine the nature of sovereignty, partnerships, and mechanisms for conflict resolution.
- English Usage – Too many Israelis do not take English sufficiently seriously, and this lackadaisical attitude permeates the state as evidenced in official government publications and even highway signs which frequently misspell place-names or use poor grammar, syntax, etc. Some cities like Tzfat have multiple spellings which can needlessly confuse visitors. Most tourists – not just Anglophones – use English as an intermediary language, and Israelis would do well to bolster their English skills in order to foster greater tourism throughout the country.
- Customer Service – Professional customer service is not yet adequately part of Israeli culture. Government offices, banks, and phone companies are the most egregious offenders taxing the patience not only of immigrants from service-oriented countries but the native-born as well. While Israel has had bigger problems to deal with than poor service delivery, positive customer service is a marker of maturation and evinces a sophistication inhering in civilized nations.
Hopefully the coming years will see these areas benefiting from attention and action, as the State of Israel progresses towards its 100th anniversary in 2048.