We need to march for mutual love and compromise – opinion

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The Jerusalem Post  21.02.2023


We need to march for mutual love and compromise – opinion


I am missing something. Why keep protesting? Or better yet, why not protest to support our president? Why are people still freely screaming that democracy is dying, proving that democracy lives? Last week, President Isaac Herzog  called for deliberations, offered thoughtful pathways to compromise and pleaded for calm. He represents the silenced majority, the 64%-plus seeking negotiations.


It could be a win-win. The Right won. Herzog and most Israelis accept some judicial reform. And the Left won: Herzog like most Israelis wants a cautious, consensus-sensitive, constitutive process.


So why the mass bullheadedness? Let’s push President Herzog’s five-point plan by forwarding five-pointed blue-and-white stars on social media, marching with that same star of democracy, the new democratic-Jewish star. We should press our leaders inside the coalition and out to stop yelling and start leading constructively by negotiating, compromising and healing the country.


In an enlightening, entertaining must-see new play in London, the gifted diplomat Daniel Taub, Israel’s former ambassador to the UK, teamed up with a legendary British comedy writer and producer Dan Patterson, to teach about negotiations. The Winner’s Curse warns that we often overpay for victories, yet feel empty if we win too easily.


Coalition and opposition leaders should watch this negotiation primer. Both sides must clarify what kind of judiciary Israel needs, how they plan to soothe the Israeli soul and what they can realistically achieve.


Protests are effective

Protests are addictive, like Las Vegas winning streaks. Your appetite grows faster than a bar mitzvah boy ending his first Yom Kippur fast, risking mission creep.


But beware: Each extraneous protest, each self-righteous doom-and-gloom cry, diminishes the Left’s credibility. The government isn’t falling so quickly. Why put preconditions on negotiations if you’re sincerely fighting the reforms?


Extremism is contagious. The harsh rhetoric and rigidity, defying President Herzog’s intervention, feed suspicions that the protesters hope to undo the election results, which would subvert democracy. Even worse, skeptics grumble that instead of protecting democracy, the protests reveal A-squared, Ashkenazi Arrogance, a sore-loserish refusal to let “those people” enjoy the power they won.


These whispers make this moment fraught. If we are simply debating judicial protocols, we’re OK. Compromise is possible regarding the pace of change, power dynamics between government branches, judicial workload, judicial selection and how reasonable the reasonableness clause is. That’s what legislators do. They take issues that seem black-and-white and after backing-and-forthing, discover grays by writing up policies in black-and-white.


Acknowledge the progress made. Today’s Judicial Selection Committee is more populist, refuting the Right’s lies. Seven of nine must agree: two ministers, two Knesset members, three Supreme Court justices and two Bar Association representatives. This consensus-building process legitimizes appointees as popular choices and experts respected by peers.


The debate turns dangerous, however, when it becomes tribal, about identity not issues, with both sides going postal. The Opposition must start asking when their unhinged warnings about violence, economic collapse, social disruption and democratic disintegration will become self-fulfilling. True, there’s been no George-Floyd-type riots  or January 6th invasion … yet. Still, Yair Lapid cannot claim innocence when protesters he helped rile up prevented MK Tally Gotliv from escorting her special needs daughter to school.


WHEN DEMAGOGUES demagogue, bullies bully by demonizing opponents, predicting democracy’s collapse, inflaming public opinion and encouraging mobocracy. Anyone who blamed Donald Trump for the brutality he wink-wink unleashed should denounce Lapid, Ehud Barak and every political pyromaniac inflaming Israelis today.


In 1920, A.D. Gordon taught that nationality has a cosmic element best described as the blending of the natural landscape of the Homeland with the spirit of the people inhabiting it. This is the mainspring of a people’s vitality and creativity, of its spiritual and cultural values.


Despite its power to move millions, that cosmic element is as ­­fragile as an egg. In a liberal-nationalist democracy like ours, every citizen and every leader must act gingerly, protecting that powerful yet precarious force.


Ultimately, Herzog is correct: “The responsibility to listen, to feel pain… lies first and foremost with those who hold [power in] the institutions of government.” Our AWOL PM, who seems to have relinquished power to Simcha Rothman and Yariv Levin, is most responsible for today’s instability, which threatens his previous political, economic and diplomatic achievements.


International atomic inspectors in Iran detected uranium enriched to 84%: dangerously-high, near-nuclear-bomb, levels. Frustratingly, the chaos Bibi and his coalition captors has caused allows the relatively minor, highly-divisive issue of court reform to distract from the major, unifying challenge of stopping Iran.


Coalition Kool-Aid drinkers can’t keep blaming the opposition. As of December 29, the responsibility falls on Netanyahu and the goonatics he imposed upon us, straining our nerves.


As the Winner’s Curse ends, the diplomat Korsakov, devastated that his son died defending an inconsequential ridge, admits, “I invented the ridge.” We all should heed his warning: “We create our symbols with our pen, then make them holy with our blood.”


Last week’s OurCrowd Summit hosted 9,000 superstars who believe in Israel and in the Israeli hi-tech network. This and other Israeli successes prove that hope is self-fulfilling, triggering an ever-escalating spiral of positivity. Alas, despair has its own self-fulfilling power, too, feeding an ever-escalating spiral of negativity that leaders, once they uncork, can rarely tame.


That’s why I sit at home alone, waiting to rally around our president, for compromise and for moderation. I will only march in favor of the mutual love of our fellow citizens that transcends today’s Left-Right poison and defies the extremists running the conversation, on both sides of the seemingly-great yet still-surmountable divide.

A Distinguished Scholar in North American History at McGill University currently living in Jerusalem, Gil Troy is an award-winning American presidential historian and a leading Zionist activist. He is, most recently, the editor of the new three-volume set, “Theodor Herzl: Zionist Writings,” the inaugural publication of The Library of the Jewish People ( www.theljp.org )  . Two years ago he co-authored with Natan Sharansky Never Alone: Prison, Politics and  My People,  was published by PublicAffairs of Hachette. Recently designated one of Algemeiner’s J-100, one of the top 100 people “positively influencing Jewish life,” Gil Troy is the author of  The Zionist Ideas , an update and expansion of Arthur Hertzberg’s classic anthology The Zionist Idea, published by the Jewish Publication Society and a 2019 National Jewish Book Award Finalist. 



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Prof Gil Troy · 20 Derech Bet Lechem · Apt 2 · Jerusalem 9310925 · Israel