A Proposed Section on Democracy for Israeli Party Platforms

Recommendations for Policy Makers - Elections 2015

A booklet with a draft of a section on democratic values that could be inserted in the platform of any political party, which was written by  IDI Vice President Prof. Mordechai Kremnitzer and Dr. Amir Fuchs in advance of the 2015 Knesset elections. The booklet includes a conceptual framework and suggestions for action.

In advance of the 2015 Knesset elections, IDI Vice President Prof. Mordechai Kremnitzer and IDI Researcher Dr. Amir Fuchs formulated a proposal for a section on democratic values that could be inserted in the platform of any political party. This proposal provides parties that are committed to the idea of the Jewish and democratic state with a conceptual framework as well as concrete suggestions for action that will ensure that Israel remains a Jewish and democratic state, guarantee human and civil rights in the spirit of Israel's Declaration of Independence, safeguard the character of the state, the rule of law, and the status of the judicial system, help build a shared society, and combat racism and discrimination.

A translation of the text of this Hebrew booklet can be found below.

1. Ensuring that Israel Remains a Jewish and Democratic State

Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people. This definition does not detract from the fact that Israel is also the state that serves all its citizens, non-Jews as well. These include the various minorities—Arab, Druze, and Circassians—who form an integral part of Israel's diverse social fabric.

Democracy is the rule of the citizens. It is based on the recognition of human equality, equal rights to freedom, and the inviolable right of all citizens—irrespective of religion, race, or sex—to full equality of rights and opportunities. This concept of democracy is based both on Jewish tradition and on the liberal democratic tradition.

In a democracy, prime importance is attached to the right to vote and be elected, the right to freedom of expression, and the right to freedom of association. Any infringement of these rights must have special justification.

2. Guaranteeing Human and Civil rights in the Spirit of the Declaration of Independence

We will strive to realize the pledge of Israel's Declaration of Independence that the State of Israel "will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.”

We will strive to inculcate the idea that the State of Israel—as a Jewish and democratic state —is committed to mutual responsibility, social solidarity, social justice, affirmative action for disadvantaged groups, assistance to the weak and needy, reduction of poverty, and narrowing of social gaps.

We will strive to realize the call to include Israel's Arab citizens in the building of the state, on the basis of full and equal citizenship and with appropriate representation in all state institutions.

The State of Israel has decided, on both ethical and pragmatic grounds, not to impose compulsory military service on its Arab citizens. Given that exemption, the fact that most Arab citizens do not serve in Israel's armed forces cannot be used as a pretext for discrimination against them.

3. Safeguarding the Character of the State, the Rule of Law, and the Status of the Judicial System

Out of a commitment to Israel’s character as a Jewish and democratic state, we will work to stop proposed legislation and other initiatives that are incompatible with this understanding of the nature of the state.

In order to promote a commitment to protecting human and civil rights, and to ensure the stability of the fundamental principles of the Israeli system of government, we will endeavor to enact a constitution by consensus.

We will protect the independence of the gatekeepers of the judicial system as a necessary condition for the rule of law and the war against corruption.

We will continue to strengthen the status of the judicial system and the Supreme Court. We will bolster the Court in its appointment of judges, independence, and apolitical nature, as well as its authority to conduct judicial review of the legislation and actions of the executive branch.

4. Building a Shared Society

Alongside the various national and religious identities found in Israel, it is extremely important to develop broad common denominators that are shared by all citizens. Among other things, we will encourage joint activities that transcend sectoral boundaries and will work to establish a special day for celebrating our common citizenship.

5. Moral Education

We aspire to a situation in which the education system will imbue the hearts of its students with humanistic values—justice, freedom, peace, human dignity, and equality—in the spirit of the Jewish tradition and the prophets of Israel and in the spirit of the liberal democratic tradition.

The education system will foster independent thought, critical thinking, and obedience to the voice of conscience. It will strive to produce future citizens who are knowledgeable and caring and who wish to and are capable of serving as active citizens in the area in which they live and in the digital media environment that they consume.

The education system will provide students with a solid knowledge of the Arabic language and Arab culture.

6. The Fight against Racism and Discrimination

Ever since the Jewish people were exiled from their land and scattered throughout the world, they have been the victims of prejudice, hostility, discrimination, and persecution, culminating in an almost-successful attempt to exterminate them. The scourge of anti-Semitism has not passed from the world today.

We will strive to instill awareness of the special obligation incumbent on the state and its institutions to wage a vigorous campaign against racism and discrimination based on membership in any sector of the population.

Prof. Mordechai Kremnitzer is Vice President of Research of the Israel Democracy Institute and Professor Emeritus at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem Faculty of Law.

Dr. Amir Fuchs is the head of IDI's Defending Democratic Values project.