a Former Israeli Military Intelligence Chief Stands with the Druze
By Amos Yadlin
August 6, 2018
new “nation-state” law, which is widely viewed here as clumsy, unnecessary
and unwise, must be amended. That’s why I was proud to join tens of thousands
of Israelis on Saturday night in a peaceful, unifying protest led by the Druze
came to this city’s Rabin Square to stand with the Druze, with whom I fought
to protect the State of Israel. But I also came to celebrate Israeli democracy;
the public’s commitment to equality and democratic values; our independent
media; and our country’s bedrock guarantees for free speech and the right to
was a quiet, dignified rally, with representation from across our diverse
society. In contrast to the ill-advised vote in the parliament two weeks ago,
Saturday night’s rally displayed “Israeliness” at its best. Israeli flags
fluttered in the square and everyone sang “Hatikvah,” our national anthem,
at the end of the rally.
the initial storm over the new law subsides, any level-headed assessment reveals
that its principal damage has been to stir up negative public discourse — in
Israel and abroad. But make no mistake: The Jewish state’s democratic
foundations remain vigorous, deeply rooted and incredibly resilient.
law touches on sensitive issues that David Ben-Gurion and the founders preferred
not to decide. These matters require time, sensitivity and the broadest possible
consensus. They cannot be decided haphazardly, especially hours before a
parliamentary recess, and they most certainly should not be decided by the
barest of majorities (in this case, 62 Knesset members voted in favor and 55
new law does not go far enough in protecting minority rights and upholding the
principle of “equality” of all citizens, although this is enshrined in other
to these flaws, the new law does not command legitimacy. It stirs negative
emotions and polarizes the public debate. It alienates parts of the Arab sector
and has strained the special bond with the Druze community, which serves in the
Israeli military. Moreover, the law has damaged ties with the Jewish Diaspora,
especially in the United States, which Israel can ill afford.
a world increasingly defined by images, the new law creates bad optics and plays
into the hands of Israel’s adversaries, who are already predisposed to single
out Israel in the international arena.
law must be amended in ways that align it fully with Israel’s Declaration of
Independence, which states that the country “will ensure complete equality of
social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion,
race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language,
education and culture.”
4 must be amended to restore the standing of Arabic as one of the state’s
the focus of less attention, Article 6, which deals with ties between Israel and
World Jewry, should also be amended to underline the strategic value of these
relations and to enshrine the principles of partnership, peoplehood and unity.
amended law should be passed by a larger majority in the Knesset and should be
written in flexible and broad terms that reflect the dynamic nature of Israeli
the sky is not falling. Israel’s democratic character is safeguarded through
myriad, overlapping mechanisms, including a wide body of quasi-constitutional
legislation, an independent judiciary, a vibrant civil society and one of the
world’s most free-wheeling media sectors.
Israeli democracy is resilient and has flourished despite our country’s long
and intense struggle for security and peace. Far lesser security and political
challenges have seriously damaged democratic life in other countries, Turkey
being just the latest example.
has many models. The United Kingdom, a well-established democracy, lacks a
written constitution. The U.S. has just two political parties and
winner-take-all elections. Israel, unique among democracies, has a low electoral
threshold and rules that allow even the narrowest of constituencies to gain
representation in national politics.
many decades, Israel built up a body of quasi-constitutional law that
judiciously reinforced and routinized the country’s democratic institutions.
The supporters of the new law argued that it was time to further enshrine the
state’s Jewish character, and this set off an unfortunate competition among
certain factions for narrow, populist political gain.
the measure tilts the balance toward the Jewish identification of the state, it
does not override the many checks and balances that infuse Israel’s democracy,
including the sacred principle of equality.
don’t think for a minute that some minority political leaders are not using
this ill-advised law to grandstand and pursue their own political agendas. The
fallout from the law obscures many new, positive developments, including soaring
rates of Arab advancement in higher education and in the workplace, including
is much more that needs to be done to ensure greater opportunities for
peripheral populations — Arab, Bedouin, Druze and even Jewish — but this
misguided law does nothing to nullify or erase the enormous strides that our
society has taken toward a truly shared society.
This was a case of political “friendly fire,” a self-inflicted wound. But the understandable consternation should not be exaggerated or misinterpreted as undermining Israel’s democratic traditions, which remain strong and resolute.