New Israel70 Issue of Fathom

Israel70 is a special bumper issue of the journal that maps the state of Israel at 70 years old and examines some of the major challenges facing this still young country. Articles, interviews, films, and book reviews from 37 writers will be rolled out at the Fathom website over the Spring of 2018.

We launch the special issue today with six expert contributors.

Einat Wilf with Shany Mor, both advisory editors of the journal, sets the tone for the entire collection by inviting us to celebrate 70 years of … argument! Wilf is a former member of the Knesset for the Labour Party and Independence from 2010 to 2013. Mor is a former Director for Foreign Policy on the Israeli National Security CouncilZionism and the State of Israel, they claim, are unique examples of a movement of national liberation, and a state, established asongoing debates. Democratic debate about the character and future of the state has been at once a necessity, a virtue, a strength and a saving grace; in fact, they say, it has defined the country. They look forward to the next 70 years of argument.

Tzipi Livni, Israel’s former Foreign Minister and a leading peace negotiator, argues that Israel at 70 faces a hard choice: whether to focus on the vision of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, the nation-state of the Jewish people with equal rights to all its citizens; or the vision of Greater Israel, whose meaning is having two kinds of citizenships or a binational state. ‘Israeli society is divided over what destination to put into our national GPS’ she tells BICOM’s Israel Director Richard Pater.

Yohanan Plesner is President of the Israel Democracy Institute and was the first director-general of the Kadima party as well as one of its Knesset members from 2007 to 2013. In ‘Democracy against all odds, or at odds with democracy?’ Plesner argues that in order for Israel to secure a democratic future and manage its internal affairs, it must: reform its political system; create a shared Israeli identity; develop a constitution; build a new relationship between the state and religion; and find a decision on the Palestinian question.

Mohammad Darawshe is the Director of the Center for Equality & Shared Society, at Givat Haviva. He claims that what is at stake in Israel today is not just the status of Arab citizens, but the Declaration of Independence. If current trends continue, he argues, the Zionist project itself will be derailed. It’s time for new political alliance and for the minority to enter a governing coalition.

Robert John (Yisrael) Aumann is an Israeli-American mathematician and a professor at the Center for the Study of Rationality in the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Aumann received the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2005 (shared with Thomas Schelling) for his work applying Game Theory to conflict and cooperation. In interview with Fathom Deputy Editor Calev Ben-Dor, Aumann draws on his knowledge of game theory to examine Israel’s negotiating position while also emphasises the importance of Israel understanding the power of the sacred if it is to survive in the long term.

Throughout the Spring keep coming back to the Fathom website for new content from great writers. Here is what you will find.

What is the state of Israel-Diaspora relations at 70?

In ‘Reflections of an Old Zionist’ Michael Walzer, one of America’s foremost political thinkers, urges the embrace of ‘a more engaging diasporism’ that acknowledges the value of a Jewish and democratic state but insists also on the value of citizenship in non-Jewish democratic states. ‘This is a politics that challenges the old Zionist goal of the negation of the galut,’ he notes, ‘and reminds Jews in Israel and around the world of the ancient and productive dualism of Babylonia and Palestine.’

Gidi Grinstein and Ari Afilalo argue that despite all the security challenges facing Israel, the core ethos of Israel’s existence is fundamentally challenged by one ‘internal’ crisis, which is brewing to potentially transform it altogether: Israel’s relations with World Jewry. They explore how and why the relationship between Israel and the Jewish diaspora has hit a new low and suggest a new vision for how Israel must treat and respect the Jewish Diaspora if it wishes to still be recognised as the home for the Jewish people. Grinstein is the President and Founder of the Reut Institute. Ari Afilalo is a professor f law at Rutgers University.

How secure is Israel at 70?

Sima Shine and Ezra Friedman map the shift in Israel foreign policy strategy over the past 50 years and the state of play today. Shine joined INSS as a senior research fellow following her departure from the Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs where she served as deputy director general, responsible for the Iranian file (2009–2015). Prior to that, she served as deputy head of the National Security Council for Strategic Affairs (2008–2009). Friedman is a project manager at the INSS. We also asked the former head of Mossad Efraim Halevy, astute analyst and regular Fathom contributor, to assess Israel’s security environment at 70.

How can Israel meet the peace challenge at 70?

Read the contrasting perspectives of US negotiator Dennis Ross; B’Tselem Director Hagai El-Ad; Shalom Lipner, a nonresident senior fellow in the Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, and Ziad Darwish, a Palestinian journalist and a member of the Palestinian Committee for Interaction with the Israeli Society.

Israeli society: fracturing or resilient 70?

Three writers address this urgent question. Professor of Sociology at the University of Haifa and recipient of the Israel Prize, Sammy SmoohaAnshel Pfeffer, a leading journalist at the Israeli daily newspaper Ha’aretz and MK Ruth Calderon.

We asked a range of young Israelis about their worries for Israel’s present and hopes for Israel’s future. The results were inspiring and challenging in equal measure. Read Asaf Yusufov, a former counsellor and manager at Tel Aviv’s Barnoar LGBTQ Youth Club; Tal Harris, the spokesperson of MK Amir Peretz; Rob Pinfold, a Neubauer Research Associate at the INSS and a Doctoral Fellow at the University of Haifa; Aron Kalman, Naftali Bennett’s policy advisor; Tel Aviv Widrich, director of operations for Darkenu; Yaniv Yitzchak, head of Mechina in Yerucham, a development town in southern Israel who runs an educational program that prepares men and women for the army; Yair Zivan, foreign policy adviser to Yair Lapid; Hen Mazzig, a writer, speaker and activist whose articles were featured in the International Business Times, The Jerusalem Post, Haaretz and many other publications; Netta Geist, an advisor to the CEO of the city of Givatyim and a former advisor to Stav Shaffir; Elai Rettig, a Neubauer Research Fellow at the INSS and a Ph.D. Candidate and lecturer at the School of Political Science in the University of Haifa; and Daniel Levi, who runs a mechina in Jerusalem, part of which is based on the teaching of the late Rabbi Menachem Froman. More young Israeli voices will join the discussion over the Spring.

Can Israel reclaim its position as a world leader in international development assistance at 70?

Israel was once a world leader in development assistance and a model for African states to follow. There are signs it can become both again, with the explosion of new Israeli development actors and programs. To fond out more Fathom editors talked to Sivan Yaari, Head of Innovation-Africa, which brings innovative Israeli solar and water technologies to remote African villages. Dr. Aliza Inbal, the leading Israeli expert in international development and Director of the Pears Programme for Global Innovation, and Ophelie Namiech, Senior Director of Organizational Learning and Training at IsraAID, the leading Israeli Aid NGO see a new vision emerging: government, the private sector and civil society joining forces to harness Israel’s innovative capacity.

In ‘the back of the book’ you will find five book reviews: Asher Susser on Ian Black’s Enemies and Neighbours: Arabs and Jews in Palestine and Israel, 1917–2017Cary Nelson’s highly critical review of Susaina Maira’s Boycott! The academy and Justice for PalestinePaul Iddon, a freelance journalist based in Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan, on Being Kurdish in a Hostile World by Ayub Nuri; Michael Stephens, the Research Fellow for Middle East Studies and Head of RUSI Qatar, reviews Jonathan Spyer’s Days of the Fall: A Reporter’s Journey in the Syria and Iraq Wars; as well as Kyle Orton, Middle East analyst and Research Fellow with the Henry Jackson Society, on Carter Malkasian’s Illusions of Victory.

Professor Alan Johnson, for the editors.

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