TOPICS : Israel’s bigger battle ahead

The war, for now, is over. Israel, eager to strike back against thousands of frightening, but largely ineffective, rockets, and apparently sensitive to the blunders made against Hezbollah in 2006, may have very well “won.”

Ultimately, however, Israel loses by focusing, once more, on external threats rather than internal

failures. Such failures have gone largely unaddressed for decades and are sending Israel to a tipping point that will prove more dangerous to its existence than any threat Hamas, Hezbollah, or even Iran could ever pose.

Democracy means universal suffrage, an independent judiciary, and a culture that values expression. Israel’s democracy is ethnic. Israel lacks an identity that transcends sub-national units of ethnicity and religion, which can unify all citizens as equal members of a shared state with a shared destiny reached through common goals. Normally, a country’s internal instabilities are its own business. In Israel’s case, however, huge decisions demanding national consensus are looming that will affect the future composition of Israel, peace in the region, and security around the world. In question is not only the relationship between Israel’s Jews and Arabs, but also between religious and secular, Sabra (native-born Jew) and immigrant, and the immigrant communities themselves.

For Israel to be at peace with its neighbours, it must first be at peace with itself. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported last year that Arab enlistment in the army reached an all-time high (still only in the

hundreds), and the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, is considering making civil service compulsory for Arabs as it has been for Jews. No one should expect any substantial number of Israeli Arabs to join an army that is sometimes called upon to fight their families in the occupied territories and neighbouring countries. However, serving one’s own community in Israel through civil service makes sense.

One education system for all is essential. Today, three groups of citizens attend three kinds of schools that deliver three kinds of curriculum. The majority secular Jews enrol in public schools, similar to any other Western country. Religious Jews can study in publicly funded religious schools. Largely underserved Arabs attend schools taught in Arabic and framed by Arab history. How do citizens learn to live together when they are raised in a

segregated environment? The

lack of a constitution is the most glaring deficiency of Israel’s democracy. Instead, it gets by on a collection of basic laws that enjoy semi-constitutional status.

Israel must ratify a constitution that enshrines equal rights and

protections for all citizens;

recognises Israeli Arabs as the collective, indigenous minority that they are; separates religion from state but still preserves the Jewish character of the country. A constitution is more than a set of laws.

It is the ultimate symbol of national unity: one document from which

all citizens will be judged equally and fairly. — The Christian Science Monitor