Center for Democratic Values and Institutions

This center is dedicated to fortifying the democratic values and institutions of the State of Israel, based on the humanistic foundations of Judaism and the liberal foundations of Zionism. The Center seeks to strengthen the commitment of Israeli policymakers, opinion shapers and decision makers to the fundamental tenets of Israeli democracy, including freedom, equality, civil rights, separation of powers, transparency and the rule of law.

The center works to thwart populist legislative initiatives, develop sound alternatives, shape policy on education for democracy, ensure a free and independent press, promote a more inclusive society and articulate a common vision for all Israeli citizens.

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    Adv. Alona Vinograd

    Director

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    Vinograd led legal battles to increase public transparency and battled against corruption in various issues including education, health, transportation and more. She has more than a decade of experience in the social sector, and in 2015 she was awarded the Rappaport Prize for Women Generating Change in Israeli Society.

     

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    Dr. Tehilla Shwartz Altshuler

    Senior Fellow

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    A board member of the National Press Council and lecturer at the Federmann School of Public Policy and Government at the Hebrew University. She is a former head of the research department at the Israeli Second Authority for Television and Radio, a former research fellow at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, and a visiting scholar at Harvard’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies.

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    Prof. Yuval Shany

    Vice President

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    Vice President of Research at the Center for Democratic Values and Institutions, and the Center for Security and Democracy

    Prof. Shany's research interests include; international courts, human rights, laws of war, cyberlaw, and legal aspects of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He is former dean of the Faculty of Law at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where he holds the Hersch Lauterpach Chair in International Public Law. In 2018, he became a Chairman of the UN Human Rights Committee..​

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    Prof. Mordechai Kremnitzer

    Senior Fellow

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    Professor Kremnitzer is a professor emeritus of the Faculty of law at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, former dean of the Faculty of Law, and director of the Israeli Press Council.

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    Nasreen Hadad Haj-Yahya

    Director, Arab-Jewish Relations Program

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    Nasreen Hadad Haj-Yahya holds an MA in education and social geography and is a doctoral candidate in the History Department at Tel Aviv University. The topic of her doctoral dissertation is, “The contemporary impact of social space barriers on the inaction and future orientation of young Arabs aged 18–22.”

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    Dr. Amir Fuchs

    Director, Defending Democratic Values Program

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    Dr. Amir Fuchs holds a doctorate from the Faculty of Law at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and is a lecturer in the Politics and Communication Department at the School of Government and Social Sciences at Hadassah Academic College.

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    Adv. Talya Steiner

    Program Manager and Researcher, Proportionality in Public Policy Program

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    Dr. Raanan Sulitzeanu-Kenan

    Co-Director, Proportionality in Public Policy Program

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    The topics of Dr. Raanan Sulitzeanu-Kenan’s studies are the politics of investigative committees, the effect of reputation on government agencies, the judicial proportionality of experts, and the effect of corruption in the public sector and the resulting judicial intervention on voter behavior.

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    Dr. Guy Lurie

    Researcher

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    Dr. Guy Lurie is a lawyer and received his PhD in History from Georgetown University (2013). Dr. Lurie is a former coordinator of the Shamgar Commission for the Formulation of Rules of Ethics for Members of the Government, and served as a post-doctoral fellow on the Faculty of Law at the University of Haifa.

One fact is clear: the moment the attorney-general announces his decision, half of the public will reject it, to the point of accusing him of serving political interests and not really seeking the truth.

Black Friday is a good reminder that that in order to protect our privacy as well as minimize the use of personal data to influence our ability to make free choices, there needs to be a change in consumers’ habits as well as increased digital literacy. 

The truth is that the bill was designed to castrate expression and creativity, and induce self-censorship by artists and cultural institutions.

A modern nation of laws isn’t supposed to act based on revenge. Its legal system is founded on decency, justice and equality, not primitive concepts like hatred.

How despicable is a mob that calls for non-partisanship but is unwilling to listen to a voice that speaks for a majority of Israelis today?

Israel at 70 is still a thriving democracy, but current concerns are justified, says Alona Vinograd in an interview to Fathom.

The digital domain has developed into something of a wild west for election campaigning in recent years. While there are strict laws governing the press, radio, and television, there are almost no restrictions on online campaigning, such as on the forms of advertising permitted, the use of personal data, and advertising budgets. This lack of regulation has already been shown to potentially affect election results, and may lead to the misuse of information on residents, routinely collected by the municipality as part of its function by those in positions of power in local government. 

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Nasreen Hadad Haj-Yahya’s research finds that shared work spaces in Israel benefit both Jews and Arabs alike. Moreover, working together reduces alienation, erodes stereotypes, and contributes to the Israeli economy.

"While Israeli national politics get most of the coverage, it is the local level that in many cases has the greatest impact on Israeli lives." Read Yohanan Plesner's op-ed on the upcoming municipal elections and why electoral reform is required, both on the local and national level.

The United Nations, with all its many flaws, has an essential role to play in promoting the basic idea that any and all individuals must enjoy human rights.

As Israel enters its eighth decade, Yohanan Plesner, President of the Israel Democracy Institute, reflects on the delicate balance between the state’s two dominant characteristics – Jewish and democratic – which has never been more contested.

Guaranteeing an independent Supreme Court. Integrating the Ultra-Orthodox into the IDF. Boosting participation of Arab women in the workforce. Improving the ease of doing business in Israel. These are some of the challenges facing IDI’s new cadre of program and center directors.

The deputy president of the Jerusalem District Court inaugurated the Basic Law on Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People, issuing the first verdict based on it -  imposing punitive damages on Hamas for the severe post-traumatic stress suffered by a Jewish Israeli wounded in a terror attack in Tel Aviv in 1998. 

 

"How good it is that there are judges in Jerusalem, including the Magistrate’s Court, whose insight has not deserted them, despite the demands on them by the government to function as automatons in the service of brutality."

Initial observations on Israeli's Military Advocate General's decision to conclude investigation into 'Black Friday'.

The breach of IDF’s Meitav website was almost inevitable, in light of inadequate attention to the need to protect sensitive personal information and the lack of supporting legislation in Israel.

 

Now is the time to rise above petty politics and pass a draft law that will uphold the principle of civic equality in Israel.

 

In the bill’s final wording, the state only commits itself to act within the Diaspora to strengthen the ties of Jewish peoplehood – as if actions taken inside the Jewish state, like the reneged-upon Western Wall compromise, have no bearing on the rest of the Jewish world.

Dr. Tehilla Shwartz Altshuler joins hosts Dahlia Scheindlin and Gilad Halpern to discuss the deteriorating relationship between politicians and the press, how media policy in Israel may infringe on the country’s relatively robust freedom of the press, and how a strong press in Israel threatens the current government.

The Israel Democracy Institute applauds Prime Minister Netanyahu’s decision to reevaluate the Facebook Law which was initially formulated to help fight terrorism, but evolved into a draconian law that could set back the Start-Up Nation decades in terms of freedom of speech.

A Basic Law that seeks to define the character of the state but does not anchor the principle of civic equality has no place in the law book of any democracy.

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How can Israel - a light to the nations, and homeland for the Jewish People, fail to embrace equality for all, alongside commitment to the diaspora?

The Israel Democracy Institute issued a letter to the Prime Minister regarding the Nation State Billl, asserting that if the value of equality is not anchored in the legislation alongside the other enumerated national characteristics of the state, the law may eventually erode Israel's democratic character

The Lod district court decision illustrates the possible dangers to criminal defendant’s human rights though the expanding defense of necessity and the lack of separation between the preventive and criminal phases of the investigation.

Yohanan Plesner discusses with Tipping Point the "People's Army". Can a compromise be reached and is "sharing the burden" of military service a realistic goal? 

Government-sponsored legislation proposing to change how ministry legal advisors are appointed has stirred up quite a storm. The idea should worry all of us, not only jurists.

The Israel Democracy Institute ahead of the Knesset Constitution Committee debate on political appointments of legal advisers in government ministries: "A blow to the civil service ethos; an opening for potential corruption, forsakes public interest".

Israel’s supporters, who have the nation’s best interests at heart, should resist the urge to engage in partisan smear campaigns that attempt to tarnish the reputations of patriots who are on the frontlines of the struggle for Israel’s legitimacy as a Jewish and democratic state. We have enough enemies on our borders.

The majority of the Arab public want to be included in the State’s decision-making processes, and support Arab ministers serving in the government.

 

Yohanan Plesner, President of the Israel Democracy Institute cautions that the Ministry of Defense’s proposed draft bill “endangers IDF’s model of service as a “People's Army” based on the principle of mandatory service for all

Professor Yuval Shany discusses the seeming dissonance between Israel's advanced surveillance technology, the minimal restrictions on using it, and a citizenry that hardly cares– and why all this might have to change

The good news is that despite the unprecedented offensive which aims at dealing a significant blow to the Supreme Court, the majority of the Israelis still have trust in this institution. In fact, the levels of trust in the court are much greater than those of the Knesset and the Government

The National Economic Council has repeatedly stated that the human capital potential of Arab society could be a significant source of economic growth, and is a resource that has not been developed.

Judiciary activism is neither easily defined nor easily measured. That said, it is important to clarify: Israel’s Supreme Court strikes down relatively few laws as compared with courts in other countries

 The proposed amendment which will strip the Supreme Court of the power to invalidate legislation (“the British model”), or alternatively, would allow the Knesset, by a vote of 61 of its members to reinstate a law that the court has struck down (“the override clause”) pose a grave threat to every single Israeli citizen. 

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The Democracy Pavilion, a unique multi-media experience, in full 360 degree technology, showcasing the values embedded in Israel’s Declaration of Independence, is open to the public.

Yohanan Plesner discusses with Tel Aviv Review podcast hosts Gilad Halpern and Dr. Dahlia Scheindlin the past accomplishments and future challenges of democracy in Israel, reflecting on the astonishing transformation from British rule to a vibrant start-up nation. The gains of the past cannot be taken for granted in future.

Beyond the important political, humanitarian and moral issues raised by the “Great Return March” and the IDF’s response, complicated legal issues also present themselves. 

When we use social networks, search engines or other online services on our computers or smartphones, we leave behind a long digital trail. The Facebook and Cambridge Analytica scandal should serve as a wake-up call to us all as to the implications.

The Cambridge Analytica scandal raises troubling questions about the colossal amount of personal data now available online. Dr. Tehilla Shwartz Altshuler says that states must take more aggressive action to protect individual privacy and prevent private entities from hijacking elections.

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The nation state law is the "identity law" of the state, and this will have a revolutionary significance, since democracy is not mentioned in it.

Arab women - around 10% of the total population of Israel - barely participate in the workforce, far below the employment rate of Arab or even ultra-Orthodox men. Why?

“The campaign to remake the Supreme Court has been completed” said Justice Minister Shaked - so now with its new and more conservative profile, there is no longer any justification for the delegitimization of the Supreme Court.

 

In a letter to the Members of Knesset, IDI's management clarifies that the ultra-Orthodox proposed legislation will influence budgetary matters such as allocations to Yeshiva students and housing grants, and will  place Israel’s national security in jeopardy

 

 

Letter to Members of the Knesset on the proposed Basic Law: Torah Study - "This is an extremist proposal to enshrine the principle of inequality in our law books.Its adoption could undermine the IDF’s model of service and place Israel’s national security in jeopardy"

Powerful forces are pushing against the rule of law, attempting to derail it. From the perspective of those who wish to preserve the rule of law, we are living in a Greek tragedy whose dreadful outcome is foreknown. 

"The facts revealed yesterday by the police are deeply troubling. Faced with this reality, all those who consider themselves leaders in our community, must come forth and make their position clear, rejecting such conduct forthrightly, lest moral decay spreads through our civil service and public’s trust in the government plummets.”

The Israeli government’s plans to deport en masse thousands of persons in need of international protection to undiscolsed ‘third contries’ pursuant to secret (denied, and effectively unenforcable) agreements are deeply troubling from a refugee and human rights law perspective. They should be called off.

Deporting people against their will to the countries they escaped from evokes strong and disturbing recollections of dark episodes in Jewish history.

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On the complex relationship between Arabs and Jews in Israel and the secret to bringing down the walls of fear and prejudice

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As calls for a "majoritarian democracy" gain strength in Israel, IDI's President warns of the dangers associated with a tyranny of the majority, and makes the case for a richer interpretation of democracy, grounded in the principles of liberty, equality and the separation of powers.

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"Weak media leads to fake news"

David Zeev (Reshet Bet) talks to Dr. Tehilla Shwartz Altshuler, 

The panel: Is it Trump, Zuckerberg or US - Whose Fault is Fake News? was held at the Globes-Israel Business Conference in Jerusalem on January 11, 2018.

Last year the Democracy Index pointed to an all-time low in public trust in the media. However, in 2017 it seems that the trend has reversed. Why?

The Israeli High Court of Justice’s Dec. 12 decision in Abu Ghosh v. Attorney-General provides a good opportunity to reexamine the implementation of the prohibition against torture in Israeli law almost twenty years after the court’s landmark 1999 judgment in Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, which outlawed torture.

Six countries – Canada, Germany, India, Israel, Poland and South Africa – are paradigm examples of modern constitutional systems where rights may be limited through the application
of a constitutional limitations clause. In each jurisdiction, the constitutionality of a rights limitation has come to rely on the principle of proportionality, and the key exercise in judicially reviewing a rights limitation is the proportionality analysis.

The Facebook Bill, which would allow the government to use administrative means to remove content from social networking sites, would both set a precedent and be ineffective

Rabin's legacy was equal representation at decision-making levels, fair regulation of land and services in Arab towns and equality as a right that’s guaranteed to all.

A state that is proud of its identity has nothing to fear from granting all its citizens equality.

How both faiths can use their common threads and customs as a means to connect, dialogue and cooperate.

The state and its Arab leadership, not only the political leadership, must work together to bring as many Arab citizens as possible into the decision-making echelons.

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Israel's Military Censor, an institution that has no parallel in any other democracy in the world, must cease to exist.

The north presents real opportunities for Israel’s society and economy. Turns out that the solutions have been in plain sight all along.

Now you know what it's like to feel marginalized and unequal in Israel. Arab citizens know that all too well. That's why we must join forces.

Israel’s leadership appears to have diverted from Theodor Herzl’s path. Instead of striving to create equality and a common ground, it is doing everything in its power to incite and divide for the sake of a few more votes.

 

Recent findings by the Central Bureau of Statistics on the Israeli labor market reveal that 80% of the country's Arab citizens are employed in jobs with difficult physical conditions. Watch a Research Reel about the NEET phenomenon among Israel’s Arabs.

Citizens must lead the way in the battle against political corruption.

Haredim and Arabs must be integrated into society and economy to take the start-up nation to the next level.

The author proposes a number of policy recommendations that could help Israel’s Arab population, and could be applicable to any society that suffers from socioeconomic segregation and related challenges. This article was first published by Jmore.

Priavcy is a requirement for the proper functioning of any democratic society.

The sale of Mobileye to Intel is not surprising when you consider that last year MIT Technology Review ranked the Jerusalem-based company as one of the 10 smartest companies in the world. As such, the real story is the relationship between government, society, and technology.

Earlier this year, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that “the time has come for the Start-Up Nation to also have a Start-Up Government.” I agree. But can it be done?

It is almost certain that readers of this article will not recognize the name of this man, the terrorist who caused more damage to Israel’s security than any other attacker in recent years. His name is Abdel Fattah al-Sharif, 21, from Hebron.

What is the state of freedom of information in Israel? Like in the US, there is good and bad news.

In Israel, we talk a lot about innovation. But what does the term really mean?

Harnessing the power of readily available technological tools to promote political engagement and revitalize intra-party democratic practices is essential for strengthening party institutions and restoring the public’s faith in government.

Experience and history repeatedly teach us that what was once widely accepted as an irrefutable truth can be revealed to be a total falsehood.

Instead of accepting the Arab local authorities’ proposal for a dialogue and the preparation of a comprehensive joint strategic plan for permitting construction in the Arab locales, the government is continuing to destroy Arab homes in Israel ... and there is no solution on the horizon.

Elor Azaria’s case shows how online pressure by extremist voices can swiftly go viral in the Israeli mainstream, forcing politicians to choose: Play catch up or resist, but at great personal cost.

Ahead of a recent discussion by the Ministerial Committee on Legislation on the “Facebook Bill,” IDI’s Dr. Tehilla Shwartz Altshuler wrote a policy statement in which she called the bill non-applicable to the modern day. She said the bill is likely to cause disproportionate censorship through what will be dysfunctional legal proceedings.

Dr. Ofer Kenig discusses the multiple ways in which the United States has facilitated the voting process in order to improve voter turnout, and suggests that Israel adopt a number of these innovations. This op-ed originally appeared in the Jerusalem Post

Although one need not agree with the positions held by Israel’s Arab citizens, it can’t be denied that they constitute an independent, moderate voice – and a promising political middle ground on the Palestine- Israeli conflict. This article first appeared in The Jerusalem Post.

When a sizable portion of our decision-makers have that difficulty, and “digital illiteracy” becomes evident in the upper echelons where decisions are made, we’ve got a problem. This article was first published by The Jerusalem Post.

Some 76 years ago, on August 4, Ze'ev Jabotinsky, one of the most prominent Zionist thinkers and leaders, founder and head of the Revisionist movement, Betar youth group and the Irgun paramilitary organization, died prematurely. It is interesting to explore his views on matters related to democracy and liberalism.

Dr. Tehilla Shwartz Altshuler says rejoicing over the death of television and the birth of “intervision” is premature. This column was originally published by Times of Israel.

Dr. Tehilla Shwartz Altshuler argues that the main reason the coup in Turkey fizzled is not because of Erdogan’s FaceTime message, but because he had been anticipating this putsch for quite a few years and had arranged the entire legal apparatus that governs the relationship between the Turkish government and the media accordingly. 

Last week, the Knesset Law, Constitution and Justice Committee began deliberating over a proposal that would fundamentally alter the Basic Law – The Knesset: The MK Suspension Bill. If passed, the proposed bill would grant members of Knesset the power to remove another parliamentarian. This op-ed originally appeared in the Jerusalem Post.

The Oscar award-winning “Spotlight” captures the mix of frustration, joy, drudgery and thrill that goes into every great investigative story, reminding viewers of the power of investigative journalism to reveal the abuse of power in the public and private sectors. Could the Pulitzer-prize winning work of the Boston Globe be replicated today?

One of the most fundamental principles of democratic government is the delicate system of checks and balances that prevents the arbitrary exercise of power by the majority. Israel, the sole democracy in a dangerous and unstable neighborhood, has long been an exemplar of these checks and balances. We cannot allow Israel's democratic foundations to gradually erode. Israel’s survival and prosperity hinge, in the final analysis, on its democratic vitality.

This essay makes a case for the international community’s right of self-defense against atrocities, through its members, and to refer briefly to the challenge of implementing such a right. 

Few stories illustrate the unfeeling and aggressive attitude of the Israeli government toward the Arab-Bedouin population of the Negev as well as the case of Atir-Umm al-Hiran. In this op-ed, which was first published by JTA, Eli Bahar and Thabet Abu Ras of the Abraham Fund discuss Israel's obligations toward its minority citizens.

The Knesset is currently considering a proposed amendment, sponsored by the Prime Minister, to Basic Law: The Knesset. It would allow a special majority of 90 Knesset members to suspend an MK for an unlimited period of time. In effect, this would be tantamount to an expulsion, with the suspended parliamentarian replaced by the next person on his or hers party’s candidates list. This article was first published by JNS.org.

The integration of talented Arab employees into Israel’s hi-tech sector could relieve the human-resources shortage for employers. Encouraging Arabs to enter the hi-tech industry could improve their economic situation significantly, which would reduce inequality and contribute to a reduction of social tensions in the Arab community.

While in Israel there is no formal constitution, freedom of expression is inherent in our Basic Laws. Yet a recent episode between the Israeli government and the foreign press placed Israel in a problematic light and was neither democratic nor right.

How long will we continue to recite the mantra that “technology cannot be stopped?” To what extent will we take a stand and cease to permit bad social engineering? This article was originally published by The Jerusalem Post.

As Israel gets ready to transition to its new Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, now is a good time to ask ourselves: Was Yehuda Weinstein a good Attorney General? An opinion piece by Guy Lurie, which originally appeared in the Jerusalem Post. 

Dr. Mordechai Kremnitzer argues that it is time for Israel to examine the Shin Bet security service's regulations, based on the assumption that they apply to all residents of Israel. One law must apply to all suspected perpetrators of terrorist acts — Jews and Arabs alike.

Israel refuses to officially disclose the identity of the states to which relocation takes place.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu must charge forward and turn his words into action. Only then will he be able to guarantee his vision of Israel as “a source of unity for our people.” (This article was first published by JNS.org.)

In an op-ed in <em>Haaretz</em>, Prof. Mordechai Kremnitzer discusses government corruption in Israel and the implications of the Holyland verdict for deterring such corruption in the future.

IDI researcher Attorney Amir Fuchs asserts that the only way for Israel to ensure good governance is by adopting a constitution.