February 27, 2021


Why Israeli Democracy Is Unstable and Corrupt (Akiva Malamet,┬ĚJanuary 13, 2021, Liberal Currents)

To understand why current Israeli politics is in disarray, it is important to put it in the context of Israeli history and culture. Since its founding, Israel has put national defense and military issues at the forefront of priorities. Israel has been involved in many wars, and has been in a state of conflict with both the Palestinians and various regional neighbours  through to the present (recent Trump peace deals notwithstanding). As a result of these conflicts, Israel maintains an extremely large defense budget and requires military conscription or national service for a majority of the population.

As a result, most Israelis are socialized into a culture which prizes authority and dedication to the collective as one's primary duty. Israelis are raised in a society which teaches them to obey the state and other major figures of authority for the good of their group and the nation overall.  This is illustrated by the practice of putting political figures on the walls of Israeli classrooms as figures to be revered. Authority-oriented collectivism is also reinforced by nationalist youth movements such as Bnei Akiva, Beitar, and HaShomer HaTza'ir. Throughout their upbringing, Israelis are socialized to valorize sacrifices made on behalf of the nation-state, and are prepared to enter the military and be willing to perform similar sacrifices on behalf of the collective. 

Collectivism is also reinforced by Israeli political culture, which is divided between two major camps. These are nationalist, and socialist. Unlike in many Western countries, the Israeli right is not "conservative", but nationalist. To be on "the right" in Israel is to be in favour of a militaristic, expansionist Zionism and the growth of state sovereignty and power. Despite Netanyahu's enactment of major market reforms as Finance Minister and later Prime Minister, ideas about free markets, individual rights, and limited constitutional government (in the vocabulary of many Western conservatives up until recently), are largely non-existent in rightwing discourse. They remain so despite the valiant efforts of liberal-minded Likudniks. Ideologically, the non-religious Israeli right originates from the thought of Ze'ev Jabotinsky and Revisionist Zionism. While Jabotinsky and other Revisionists referenced liberalism, their ideas owe far more to nationalist and even fascist thought. [...]

Thus, Israeli politics and culture are largely lacking much resembling a serious liberal strain, either of the left-liberal/liberal egalitarian or classical liberal/libertarian variety. 

Posted by at February 27, 2021 10:47 AM