The Third Jewish Commonwealth has accomplished remarkable growth and productivity in its first six decades, and inspires the world with its resourcefulness. Yet as a young country, Israel has much room for improvement. Here are the Top 12 most pressing issues facing the reborn nation today:
Electoral Reform: Israel’s electoral system of party-list proportional representation, where the entire country acts as a single constituency, has severely hampered the national leadership from acting decisively on behalf of its citizenry. Switching from a PR system to a relative majority or plurality voting system – election of candidates by district using a first-past-the-post/winner takes all mechanism – would increase MK accountability and government stability.
Constitution: Israel has for 64 years relied upon Basic Laws and legislative statutes to govern the country, and preferred an evolving, piecemeal constitution to a single national document. In June 2006, Professor Abraham Diskin of The Institute for Zionist Strategies drafted a proposed constitution that serves as a useful basis for the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee to debate, amend, and adopt such a seminal document.
Parliamentary Immunity: The Israeli legislature is plagued with rogue MKs who routinely undermine national security with virtual impunity. Statutes and/or Knesset by-laws should be enacted to censure acts of treason by those responsible for the wellbeing of the country.
Judea & Samaria: Israel should annex the heartland of the homeland and offer Arab inhabitants the choice of permanent residency – with guaranteed human and civil rights including municipal and regional voting rights – or emigration with compensation. Jordan, which is several times the size of Israel and 3/4 of what was Palestine, has been the de facto Palestinian Arab state since 1921, and the Gaza Strip has been a second Palestinian Arab state since 2005. There is no justification for a third Palestinian Arab state, nor is it reasonable for the sole Jewish state to relinquish the most significant parts of its geographical identity, history, and heritage.
Warfare: Israel has warred regularly since its founding, and in recent memory largely because it fights without the decisiveness and finality required to impose peace. No nation can tolerate quasi-armies perched on its frontiers, hellbent on its destruction, striking at whim. This scenario ensures renewed warfare every few years. Rather, Israel should reject artificial timelines imposed from without, and conduct its defense until terrorist groups are defeated to a man.
Chief Rabbinate: This symbolic office should be replaced by a re-established Great Sanhedrin of 71 sages, a body of Jewish rabbis and scholars serving the Jewish people in Israel and the Diaspora and which devotes itself to practical religious and spiritual issues rather than serving as nominal figureheads of the religious within the distinct political realm.
Jewish Heritage Sites: While Israel has an excellent system of about 70 National Parks and Nature Reserves, several important sites from antiquity have little or no official identification and are not yet visitor-friendly. Such historical sites include: Modi’in, home of the Hasmoneans; the Maccabean battlegrounds of Beth Zur and Beth Zechariah; Yodefat and Gush Chalav, major locales in the First Jewish Revolt; and Betar, the last citadel of Bar Kochba.
Penal Reform: Prisoners – including bloodstained murderers, gangsters, and terrorists – currently receive financial benefits while in durance, in addition to the enormous expenses borne by the state on their behalves resulting from their incarceration. Instead, convicts should be made to pay for their jailing costs to alleviate the public burden and strengthen deterrence.
Road Safety: Israel’s high rate of motor vehicle deaths is reversible with better safety standards. The state should: raise the licensing age from 17 to 18; enact graduated licensing with mandatory in-class and in-car defensive driving training; enforce speed limits rigorously; re-examine drivers every 5 years for roadworthiness; raise safety standards for automakers; broaden stretches in remote or difficult terrain and improve their lighting, road markings, and signage; and impose stiffer penalties for driving with hand-held devices or without seat belts.
Bedouin Relations: Despite recently improved relations with the Negev’s Bedouins, Israel should define its relationship with the nomadic Arab community after consultations with pertinent regional councils and representative sheikhs. Such an agreement would eliminate unseemly house demolitions that occasionally still plague relations, and would determine the nature of sovereignty, partnerships, and mechanisms for conflict resolution.