Today, December 29, 2022, is the first day of a new government in Israel. The past year has been horrific for Israel: Thirty Israelis were murdered by terrorists, far more than in previous years, inflation has risen, Israel’s international status has plummeted, teachers are quitting the education system in droves and no one is replacing them, division is spreading—between religious and secular, progressives and conservatives—and this is a very partial list.
Clearly, the new government will have a lot of fixing up to do.
The worst problem is that the outgoing government has given the feeling that no one is at the helm, and anyone can do whatever he or she wants. Not only has crime risen, but the audacity of criminals is beyond belief, committing crimes in broad daylight without even trying to hide their identity. The main problem, therefore, is one of governability, or rather, the lack thereof.
Accordingly, before anything else, the new government must make people realize that there is a new government in place, and it will not tolerate what the previous government tolerated. Deterrence must be elevated to much higher levels than the current one because at the moment, there isn’t any. When there is high deterrence, there are fewer crimes, less pressure on police, and as a result, better policing. If I had to sum up the new government’s task in two words, they would be law and order, and to that I might add, with a firm hand.
Yet, for all its significance, there is something that is just as important, yet totally ignored, but which the incoming government must develop: the one value that everyone avoids—national unity. In today’s Israel, everyone is busy proving that they are right and everyone else is wrong. The result is that no one is convinced, and everyone becomes more entrenched in their positions and adds hatred to their conviction. In such a state, any attempt to remedy the situation in Israel is hopeless from the get go.
The deepening division in Israeli society is not just another problem that the new government needs to tackle; it is the root cause of all the problems. Every single crisis that is currently affecting the lives of Israelis will vanish if there is a strong sense of social cohesion in Israel.
When there is mutual concern, there is no poverty. When there is cohesion, there is no division, and certainly no crime. When there are solidarity and unity, Israel’s military deterrence increases manyfold. Education will become better and more evenly dispersed when people care not only about their children’s schools but also about the Israeli education system as a whole.
When a government works to improve social cohesion and the well-being of the entire nation, rather than the current state where parties are concerned only with the sector that elected them, it is much easier to unite the people behind it. However, for this to happen, unity must be openly on the table as a top priority agenda item in the most important meetings: the ones where budgets are decided and laws are formulated.
Every nation has something called “national identity.” Israel’s must be “Love your neighbor as yourself.” This is the motto we had given to the world in antiquity, and we were commanded to live it out, to set an example. Love of others is the basis of our nation precisely because we emerged from alienation and hostility, and merited the status of a nation only once we triumphed over them. These days, when we are divided and hateful once again, we do not deserve the title, “nation.”
In conclusion, I would like to congratulate the incoming government, and stress that it must show a firm hand and establish law and order, but not in order to oppress political rivals, but in order to be able to instill education toward unity, mutual responsibility, and concern for one another.
Israeli designate Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a session at the plenum at the Knesset, Israel’s parliament in Jerusalem December 28, 2022. REUTERS/Ammar Awad