tzipi_livni.jpgTzipi Livni of the Kadimah party has published a statement concerning a proposed new and open relationship between Israel and the Diaspora. She is particularly concerned about the religious secular split and the growth of extremism and how it alienates Jews abroad. She is clearly positioning herself for the future.
But other than that, is she really saying anything new which challenges the Zionist status quo?
While she accepts that there may be legitimate differences between what Jews in the Diaspora believe and what does, there is still a fundamental assumption that there is a necessary connection between the two and more particularly that Israel is THE “national home of the Jewish people”, based on a historical connection that is believed to be true and absolute.
The Australian Jewish News asked for responses to her statement, but only quoted a tiny bit of what I wrote. Here it is below , put in the most moderate way. I’d only add that I don’t know if the solution is to be one, two or three open, democratic and secular states states, but a lot of Zionist nostrums have had their day and the sooner that is admitted, the better. Other states have changed. Why can’t Israel, when so much has been put on the table for it develop a strong piece with its neighbours? Is it that Israel, like the old USSR, is trapped by its foundational ideology and its leaders have nothing else to offer because abandoning Zionism will mean a fundamental change in the nature of the state and all that goes with it? The absence of discussion about Palestinians by her is very telling, so the argument remains circular.
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1. Livni’s statement is healthy, but it does not go far enough in addressing Israel’s challenges. Israel should no longer claim a Zionist political voice or necessary homeland status for the Diaspora, notwithstanding the strong, and legitimate attachment of most Diaspora Jews to Israel as a spiritual and cultural centre. Israel should be a partner with a strong Diaspora.
2. Despite this suggested new relationship, we need to be concerned about the state of Israel’s politics and society. If Israel is to remain a democracy, advice and criticism about what Livni calls other ‘personal worldviews’ (I assume she means a human rights and international law perspective) should be heard and accepted as legitimate. In fact, Israel’s problems are not just a Jewish problem, but a world problem due to the nature of the conflict, and both Israelis and Diaspora Jews cannot turn inwards into self-talk to solve the problem. The local community also needs to be far more open to accepting that this is a reality, not an anti-Semitic plot as it seems to be presented at times. It is not hard to distinguish the quality from the dross, so focus on the quality in such advice and criticism.
3. Livni’s position is ultimately weak and circumscribed because she fails to openly address the other enormous challenge for the future of Israel. She makes no mention of Palestinian Israelis as full and equal partners in Israel’s future. Livni, and other leaders should be talking to Palestinian Israelis about fundamental reforms concerning the future of Israel as a secure, open, democratic, and multicultural society: a model for the region as well as a new kind of partnership between the Diaspora and Israel. And like it or not, the Australian Jewish community needs to be open to considering this fundamental change in Israel as well.