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by Professor Paul Eidelberg




Israel is disintegrating. The basic causes of this disintegration may be listed under four headings:

  1. disunity resulting from a lack of Jewish statesmanship and Jewish national purpose
  2. disunity resulting from a flawed system of government
  3. disunity resulting from excessive cultural heterogeneity
  4. disunity resulting from secular-religious discord

Underlying each of these causes is a more fundamental one: a modern conception of democracy that clashes with Judaism and makes it impossible to achieve the national unity required for Israel's survival.

Since its establishment in 1948, the so-called Jewish State of Israel has been suffering from cognitive dissonance. The basic concepts of public discourse clash with traditional Judaism. Such concepts as the "state," "religion," "politics," "democracy," "freedom," "equality," "citizenship," etc., need to be clarified and assimilated to Jewish ideas and values. Otherwise, Jewish statesmanship is inconceivable and Israel will continue to disintegrate until it collapses.

Statesmanship requires not only persons of exemplary character, but also a well-designed system of government. But Israel's system of government is utterly flawed, especially its parliamentary system of proportional representation with a low electoral threshold. This system fragments the Jewish people by multiplying the number of parties in the executive branch of government. This cannot but undermines national unity.

Clearly, it was the Torah that preserved the Jewish people since the destruction of the Second Temple. Only the Torah can provide a solid foundation for national unity. But what do we see in Israel? We see not only politicians and judges who scorn basic Torah principles, but also institutions that entrench these scorners in power.

I mentioned the parliamentary system of proportional representation with its low electoral threshold. As a consequence of this system, no party has even come close to winning a Knesset majority and thereby forming a government. Since the government consists of the leaders of rival parties each with its own agenda, it cannot pursue a coherent and resolute national strategy.

Complicating the task of Jewish statesmanship in Israel is its cultural mishmash. Jews from a hundred countries have returned to the land of their fathers. These immigrants were influenced by ethnic characteristics as diverse as the countries from which they originated. They harbor different conceptions of political and economic freedom, of the relationship between the individual and the state. They also differ in their attitude toward the relationship between religion and state.

What renders this cultural mélange explosive is the presence in Israel of a burgeoning population of 1.3 million Arabs. All efforts to assimilate them have failed. Despite their enjoying a standard of living and a level of education unequaled in the Arab world, and notwithstanding their political freedom and fair representation in Israel's parliament, they do not want to live under a Jewish government. Their representatives in the Knesset are openly committed to Israel's demise; and these Arab MKs are not only tolerated by their Jewish counterparts, but they also enjoy the protection of Israel's permissive and anti-nationalist Supreme Court.

Now add the fourth cause of disintegration, secular-religious discord. Israel's first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, was a self-professed atheist. His party's objective -- and this is the objective of secular Zionism -- was to radically transform Jewish identity. Judaism was to become merely a "religion" and thus cease to be a religious nationality. The Torah would then be relegated to the home and the synagogue; it would cease to influence public law or provide any moral constraints on national policy.

Let us credit the architects of modern Israel for having facilitated the in-gathering of more than a million Jews and for having developed the nation's economic and scientific-technological infrastructure. But we need to face the fact that the state established under secular Zionism has become the enemy of Judaism and the Jewish people. We see anti-Judaism in many decisions of the Supreme Court. When its former president Aharon Barak said "everything is justiciable," this makes the court a Courtocracy which can ignore Jewish values and prescribe the morality of the state. Suffice to mention the court's legalizing gay marriages.

We also see anti-Judaism in the government's Evacuation Law, which resulted in the expulsion of 10,000 Jews from Judea and northern Samaria. The same fate is projected for 200,000 more Jews in Judea and Samaria -- which judge Barak had the audacity to call "belligerent occupied territory" -- a position thoroughly refuted by attorney Howard Grief.

And so the government, with the help of the court, is disposing of Jewish land and transforming Israel into "a state of its citizens." Here we see both the failure of secular Zionism and how it contradicts Judaism.

Unfortunately, religious Zionism is also flawed. Religious Zionists speak of a "Jewish state" without realizing that the concept of the Jewish state is a contradiction in terms. The modern concept of the state makes the state the supreme authority, as was evident in the state's Evacuation Law. Rabbis who regard the state as an instrument of Jewish redemption were dumbfounded.

We need to face the fact that twentieth-century Zionism is obsolete. There is not a single religious or secular party in the Knesset that is not willing to submit any further expulsion of Jews to a national referendum. Israel no longer has even the semblance of a national ideology.


In considering the results of Israel's March 2005 election, when the Likud received only 12 seats, and when the National Religious Party, to survive, had to unite with National Union, it would not be unreasonable to conclude that twentieth-century Zionism is comatose. To clinch the point: there is not a single party in the Knesset, whether secular or religious, that is not willing to submit any further withdrawal from Jewish land to a national referendum -- and this, despite the fact that almost 20% of Israel's population is Arab, and more than 300,000 Israelis are not Jewish and are therefore have no firm religious attachment of the land.

Lacking in Israel today is even the illusion of a national ideology that could promote national unity, the first concern of a statesman. For years I have been working on the formulation of such an ideology. I have now supplemented my many books on Judaism and statesmanship with a booklet that outlines the principles a new kind of democracy, one that should appeal to non-religious as well as religious Jews. I have also formulated a political program to initiate this new kind of democracy. I dare say that with this program, a well-led party could win 30 or more seats in the next election and gain control of the government.

The party I envision must take advantage of the fact that most people in Israel want institutional reform. Most know that the existing system breeds corruption. Moreover, eminent Israelis across the political spectrum have denounced the judicial imperialism of the Supreme Court, whose decisions make a mockery even of conventional democracy.

Most Jews want to stop Israel's suicidal territorial withdrawal. The public wants a system of government that can overcome the threat to Israel's existence. All Jews want a government that can deal efficiently with such problems as education, health, housing, employment, and the needs of the elderly. These issues cannot be dealt with expeditiously when the cabinet consists of rival party leaders.

The people want a government that is honest, stable, and efficient, a government with a comprehensive national strategy, a government that can defend the heritage of the Jewish people. The party I have in mind must show that these goals, as well as the everyday physical needs of our people, cannot be achieved under Israel's dysfunctional system of government, that basic institutional reform is a necessary precondition of changing the disastrous course of this country. Critics will respond: "we don't have the time for such reform!" What do we have time for -- a demonstration to topple the Olmert government? Organizing Jewish youth to resist the next expulsion? I certainly support such efforts. But why can't these immediate objectives be pursued as part of a comprehensive plan of action? The trouble with many Israeli nationalists is that they don't think in big terms; they don't link the immediate with the long-range, and that's why Israel has had nothing but retreating governments regardless of which party or party leader has been in power.

Hence I have developed a national strategy that is both ideological and institutional and also pragmatic. This national strategy will arouse and enlarge the ambitions of youth. It will not only strengthen and sustain efforts to topple Israel's inept and spineless government, but it will also provide our people with a viable alternative to what has become a politics of defeat.

First, nationalist groups must unite behind a constitution based on Jewish principles, a constitution comparable to the one set forth in my booklet, "The Myth of Israeli Democracy: Toward a Truly Jewish Israel." In this booklet I derive the two basic principles of democracy, freedom and equality, from the Torah's conception of man's creation in the image of God -- the only way to provide freedom and equality with ethical and rational constraints.

Second, nationalist groups must be committed to following structural principles:

(a) a Presidential system of government whose cabinet ministers, chosen by the President and confirmed by the Legislature, cannot hold any other public office

(b) an independent legislature whose members are individually elected by the voters in constituency elections

(c) A Supreme Court whose mode of appointment involves both the President and the Legislature, a court whose jurisprudence is consistent with the basic values of the Jewish people

For further details, let me recommend my book Jewish Statesmanship: Lest Israel Falls.


Professor Paul Eidelberg is President of the Foundation For Constitutional Democracy. He can be reached by mail at P.O.Box 23702, Jerusalem 91236, Israel, Tel: 972-2-586-1297, and by email at
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