on January 11, 2012
I really wanted to like this book and write a positive review. The author is upbeat and optimistic, and he writes about the potential for an Israeli nation that is democratic, pluralistic and international, while at the same time retaining its Jewish essence. His Hebrew Republic is a modern nation of high technology and finance set beside the old traditional Israel. His has a positive vision of an Israeli state that is democratic and inclusive.
What the author does well is in analyzing the problems facing Israel. He shows the reader the demographic problems Israel faces if they do not become more inclusive as modern cities and neighborhoods are built up around Arab neighborhoods with inadequate services and businesses. He discusses how this will inevitably begin to look more and more like a South Africa as one set of people enjoy the largess of the state's services as the other side is left with the bare minimum. He discusses how anachronistic organizations like the Jewish National Fund are still part of the political process when it has run its course. The author discusses the problems of the far right and the demographic problems associated with the ultra-Orthodox in Israel. He is much like a doctor examining his patient to see what are the causes or potential ailments they may have. The problem with the book is that after the doctor's examination he tells the patient he has cancer, and when the patient asks what can be done the doctor tells him he will probably be fine and just keep doing what he has been doing and everything will probably work out.
The problem with this book is there is no prescription. The author offers no solution to get past Israel's terrible political system that inevitably makes the center the prisoner of extreme political groups it has to have to create a coalition. Political groups may only get a miniscule portion of the total vote, but then they can wield virtual veto power over the party that won a majority if they need their couple of members to keep the coalition together. This system has been debilitating to political stability and effeciancy in Israel.
While the author discusses the problems the state has with religion being so intertwined with the political state, he offers no real solution for creating two seperate spheres for secular and religious power in the state. This is a glaring omission. There is no way for his vision of Israel to come about as long as religion essentially has a veto power over so much of Israeli political and civil society. He seems to assert that the Tel Aviv culture will somehow spread throughout the country bringing the youth, Arab and Israeli, into a more modern society that wants to be more like Europe and America, but the author offers no evidence for this, and besides that much of the evidence seems to point in the other direction. It seems that the right is becoming much more active while the left has seemed to evaporate and become irrelevant.
For so much of this book I was right there with the author. I felt like he was really getting somewhere, but then the book ends with out anything remotely resembling a conclusion for how his vision can be made into reality. He seems to be promoting the idea that the free market will simply save Israel. That Israel's modern economy, globilization and the shrinking of the planet will force Israel into becoming a more open society, but it seems that it has just as much chance of rejecting outright this supposed new modernity. If not rejection it would seem Israel can certainly muddle through with this wierd almagamation of the secular, religious and ethnic mixture until it finally explodes, and who knows how long that will be or what might come after.
In the end this book is not fulfilling. It doesn't go anywhere, and the optimism is nothing but an illusion. Maybe the author's Israel will one day be a reality, but reading this book won't help anyone figure out how. I enjoyed the book but can't recommend it.
on April 25, 2008
It takes courageous authors as Avishai to stimulate a dormant generation of Israelis and Jews in Israel and around the world to confront the delicate issue of Jewish/Israeli national identity. The author, ahead of his time, presents the readers with a vivid and relevant description of the major problem that Israel faces today and more so in the future - the lack of a unifying and modern national identity definition that can support the entire citizen population of Israel, Jewish or not.
Since the state of Israel was born, its citizens were habituated to settle for a lesser democracy in favor of security, religion and "winning" the demographics of the Middle East. It has left the land and its people (Arabs and Jews alike) with an intolerable situation - we have failed to put in place a constitution, we did not separate religion and state and for years "security reasons" served as grounds for racial and ethnic discrimination.
Despite the gloomy state of democracy described above, along with the wars and conflict and a number of economic downfalls - surprisingly, the Israeli peace movement and its ideas prevailed. Today the majority of Israelis believe in the concept of two states and agree to territorial concessions - and we are talking about people who were not too long ago the core of the political right wing! But this did not happen overnight, it took over 40 years of occupation and bloodshed.
The people who started the peace movement were also motivated by ideas that Avishai wrote about in previous works such as the Tragedy of Zionism. It is therefore clear that the major contribution of this book is the beacon it will provide for a new generation of Israelis that can in due time catalyze the much needed change of thought and action that will transform if not completely, then in baby steps the reality of Israeli democracy.
on May 14, 2008
Bernard Avishai is a thinker and writer I've admired for some time. His rather unfortunately-titled 1985 book, The Tragedy of Zionism, was not, as one might think, a statement of opposition to Zionism. Rather, it harkened back to the roots of Zionism, calling for their ideological re-establishment while offering an insightful analysis of how out-moded Zionist institutions, mixed with the ongoing conflict with the Arabs, were impeding the full establishment of Israeli democracy.
In Avishai's 2002 afterword to the updated edition of his book, he gave hints of where he would go in The Hebrew Republic. Even in the original, Avishai began to crystallize his vision of a centrist, business class in Israel, playing the game of globalization as well as, or better, than anyone. In The Hebrew Republic, Avishai goes to great lengths to demonstrate that the current state of affairs-the ongoing occupation of the West Bank and conflict with Hamas in Gaza, as well as the increasing stratification of Israeli society, most particularly the growing numbers and political power of the Orthodox Jewish community and the increasing marginalization of Israel's Arab minority, mixed in with the influence of more recent immigrants from the former Soviet Union-cannot be sustained while also preserving Israel's role in the global economy.
It is in this globalized class of centrists that Avishai places his hopes, and frankly, it's a good place to place them.
Avishai mentions a few times, but doesn't really dwell on, the natural disconnect of capitalist entrepreneurs and left-wing peace activists. But even though he's not explicit about it, this book is a call for a union between those two forces. In this era, where there is considerable overlap on regional political issues between moderate peace activists and independent entrepreneurs, this is not a pipe dream. But neither would it seem to be on the horizon in the immediate future.
Avishai does an excellent job of diagramming how the ongoing occupation of the West Bank and, most crucially, the increased influence of the settler movement in Israeli politics, impact Israel's present and its future. But perhaps his greatest contribution in this book is his presentation of Palestinian pragmatists and business-people, who have every reason in the world to wish the conflict over and a mutually beneficial relationship between Palestinians and Israelis to emerge. It's a group not without influence among the Palestinians, but one whose voice has been much quieter than it needs to be. Avishai reveals the sector among Palestinians that Salam Fayyad represents, and, one can hope, whose influence will continue to grow.
Indeed, it is this sector that must be supported if Avishai's vision of peace, or some form of it, can possibly emerge. Where I find my most profound difference with Avishai is in his vision, after which he titled the book, of a "Hebrew Republic."
Once again, Avishai tempts those who don't read the book to believe he is blaming Zionism for all of the Middle East's ills. He isn't, but he is, I believe, promoting a vision of a transformation of Israeli society that would take a very long time, much longer than is suitable to stop the killing of innocents in Israel, the Occupied Territories and beyond.
Avishai wishes Israel to become a secular democracy similar to many of the countries of Western Europe. Not unreasonable, as Israeli society has, in recent years, begun to resemble Europe more and more, more so than it has the USA, which had been the trend for quite some time.
But it's hard to ignore the sheer magnitude of destruction and bloodshed that brought Europe to where it is now. Indeed, as Avishai envisions, it was a lessening of nationalistic fervor that brought the EU about. But it was also years in developing, and a distance from intra-European conflict was a key ingredient at every stage. Israel doesn't have that kind of time, particularly since it remains situated in a place where its very existence is, at best, resentfully accepted and at worst the target of attack. That's not an atmosphere where nationalism diminishes, no matter what happens inside Israel. Even in the event of peace with the Palestinians and the establishment of relations with the Arab League nations, it will be a long time before true acceptance of Israel takes full hold, and some time after that before Israelis begin to really trust that acceptance en masse.
But Avishai's fundamental premise is a sound one. His view of Israel is more than a Jewish state. It's a state which was built by Jews, will always be culturally Jewish and always be a homeland and refuge for Jews fleeing persecution. But Avishai's Israel must now come to grips with the new Israeli nation it has created and complete the work of creating a democracy begun so many decades ago.
That's a worthwhile goal to pursue, and its various aspects have the potential to greatly improve Israel's daily existence as well as its prospects for peace and place in the world long before the country reaches the point where fervent nationalism has lost its appeal.
on July 14, 2008
Bernard Avishai has written an important book about present realities in Israel, not by delivering yet another partisan tract but by interviewing leading figures among the warring parties and ethnic groupings within Israel. He poses to them the question of what "nationality" and nationalism should mean in Israel. He explains that Israeli law assigns to everyone a nationality, and as in Jim Crow America this assignment is not voluntary. Citizenship is a separate status, and only those assigned to the vaguely defined category "Yehudim" (Jewish nationals), like whites in Jim Crow America, have full citizenship. The result has been that the state and the principal institutions of civil society are dominated by a primitive sort of nationalism which powerfully unites an idealized version of common ancestry, common religion, and ancient claims to the land: "The nation, in this view, is a kind of biological fact, but also a territory, a common experience, like a family." (Quoting A.B. Yehoshua.) In truth, such nationality is only fully shared by a minority, but it is taken as the ideal for the nation as a whole. With such a definition of nationality, it is plainly impossible for non-Jews to be equal citizens. This kind of organic nationalism feeds on its mirror opposites, pan-Arabism and Palestinian Islamism.
The best parts of the book are AVishai's long interviews with leaders of rival nationalisms within Israel, exploring the question of how much they would surrender their claims to control of the state, and retire into private observance and celebration. He poses to them the hope that a secular state, albeit one rooted in European Jewish history and traditions - a "Hebrew Republic" - would allow room for religious and ethnic diversity, while granting genuine equality of rights. The reward for surrendering control of the state will be peace, equality, and the prosperity that follows entry into the global economy, now blocked by constant warfare. It is notable t hat none of his interlocutors seem to share his optimism about this vision of a secular state.
The model of a secular state, with strict separation of church and state, yet resting on the traditions of the dominant culture, is modeled much more on the United States than Avishai notes and perhaps more than he realizes. If the book has defects, they seem to me to be two. He is excessively optimistic that shared economic interests will trump the passionate nationalisms that he describes. He is touchingly devoted to the rational dialogues he describes in this book. A related defect is the failure to discuss the manner in which the Bush Administration for this last seven years has fed and encouraged and allied itself with just the evangelical Iraeli nationalism that Avishai decries. In both respects, his book resembles arguments being made in this country. Perhaps he is right, but recent history seems to suggest otherwise: Kansas continues to vote Republican, against its economic self interest. But Avishai's saving virtue is that he presents the arguments against his own position, and leaves the reader to form her conclusion.
Those readers interested in an equally realistic and fact-based (and hence important) account of the situation across the border in Egypt might want to read Inside Egypt: The Land of the Pharaohs on the Brink of a Revolution.
on July 12, 2008
This is an essential book for anyone who cares about Israel. Bernie Avishai goes beyond the usual shibboleths to open up a more attractive vista.
The book has two main parts: (1) the great diversity within Israel, and (2) the economy and other attractions of the secular part of Israel that are its great hope. Perhaps the latter can become a beacon that shines brightly enough to overcome the centrifugal forces produced by the diversity.
The Israeli economy is strong, especially that part of it that participates in the global economy. This leads Bernie Avishai to propose something that we might label the Greater Eastern Mediterranean Scientific Technologically Organized New Economy (GEMSTONE). Enhance this as a shining beacon to all who are not "wrapped in the hands of the Lord;" i.e., all who are not constrained by religious orthodoxy, and we can see a way forward. Bernie believes that most of the people of Israel, Palestine, and Jordan would be attracted to this.
Bernie makes a major point of the role of the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) in energizing the economy. There are many technological spinoffs. However, it is just here that I have a concern.
In the United States the defense industry is a monopsony industry. The characteristics are only a few customers, in the limit only one, few competitors, and strong external rigidities, especially the government. The monopsony corporations have never been subjected to real international competition in the way that the competitive-commercial enterprises have been. Their projects are considered successful if they are competed, and the resulting product does more or less what was intended. There is not any significant measure of Quality, Cost, and Delivery time (QCD) as there is no basis for comparison. Many weak practices have grown to be traditional. There is little incentive for improvement. DoD executives change too often to ever lead any significant improvement.
Now back to the IDF. I worry that it fosters dysfunctional monopsony practices, as in the United States. Are the IDF-inspired industries really a sound basis for an economy to be a shining beacon? Can GEMSTONE work? I hope so.
Now let us return to diversity. Ultra-Orthodox Jews, Israeli Arabs, and secular adherents to the Thomas Friedman view that the world is flat, all in one small space. Oy, vey is mir!
My wife and I just saw the movie My Father My Lord (Hofshat Kaits) . The Ultra-Orthodox father, played by Moshe Dayan's son, is wrapped in the hands of the Lord to such an extent that he is not much connected to reality. In the end this leads to tragedy. Can the government continue to subsidize these people to maintain them outside of the economic society?
I like Bernie's characterization of Diaspora Jews as being frozen in 1938 and they are Churchill. They seem to me to have only one concern: Jews should never again be led to the slaughter like lambs. This trumps all other concerns. Get along with the Arabs? No! It might reduce our resistance to being led to the slaughter like lambs. This is never said, but that is the overriding fear. So the Diaspora Jews will be of limited help for GEMSTONE.
My family includes mainline Protestants, evangelical Christians, Catholics, and Jews. In past generations there were some serious schisms. Now we have all learned to coexist. So maybe the lesson is that it takes a generation or two to ameliorate the strains of diversity. Perhaps the best approach is to start the ball rolling towards GEMSTONE, and keep Dr. Deming's admonition in mind: constancy of purpose is required.
Let's give the final word to Red Auerbach, the legendary coach of the Boston Celtics basketball team. It has now been revealed that a racist wrote a long and threatening rant to Red in 1982 because Red played black players. Red, who was Jewish, is quoted in a book about him, "When I grew up in Brooklyn race was never an issue. Jews, blacks, Catholics - no one ever paid attention to what you were when you played ball. The only thing that mattered was if you could play." Maybe GEMSTONE can make Israel like that - the only thing that will matter is if you can play the global-economy game.
The final section of the book (Closing the Circle) seems to be an attempt by Bernie to convince himself that his view will really work. He does not seem to be completely convinced. I am not convinced either.
However, it seems clear that nothing else has a chance to succeed. Many comments about Israel are essentially a one-dimensional emotional rant. The implicit suggested path forward is to maintain ancient traditions - no change. One is reminded of China in 1500. Bernie shows us a rational path to the future. Whether you like his path or not, this is an essential book for anyone who cares about Israel.
on October 9, 2008
I find Bernard Avishai's book frustratingly elusive - while reading, I frequently felt the urge to dismiss the book as hopelessly naïve and the author as an elitist leftist, inhibiting a world unrecognizable to most Israelis. Much of the book is naïve (especially Avishai's fetish about Israel's lack of constitution, his conventional left wing views about the Israeli Arab conflict and of international projects such as the EU, and his eccentric economic claims) but the key idea of the book is that rarity - a fresh perspective, a new insight into Israel and the Arab Israeli conflict. It is a perspective that is worth thinking about, even if one is forced to ultimately reject it.
That main thesis, that key observation is that a large section of the Israeli public, which Avishai calls "the center", sees Israel as pretty much an ordinary advanced modern state. A Republic, like those of Europe, the United States, Canada. Like all Jewish Israelis, "the center" - sophisticated non-religious or moderately observant Jews - is used to describe Israel as a "Jewish and Democratic" state. But, Avishai argues - the "Jewish" element of this formula is for them paper-thin, in most regards but one: The use of the Hebrew language.
The advantage of promoting a Hebrew Republic rather than a "Jewish and Democratic" state is that Hebrew is a language and maybe a culture, not a religion. A "Hebrew" republic, Avishai argues, would be open to non Jews in the way that current Israel is not. Particularly, Arab Israelis could see themselves as full, equal members in the Hebrew Republic, something they cannot do in the current "Jewish" state.
Israel as a Hebrew republic would be attractive to Arabs the way France is to its minorities - a language is an acquirable characteristic, and Arabs can, and do acquire it. And in a state that would not stress its Jewishness, and therefore their foreign-ness, their otherness, they would have a strong incentive to fit in. The interest is economic - Israel is the key to Globalization. Only through Israel - through its high tech, globalized economy - can Israeli Arabs and Palestinians hope to join the world economy.
The "Hebrew Republic" is not only the Arab road to the Global economy, Bernard argues. It is also a necessary condition for Israel's maintaining and intensifying its role in the International market. Israel needs security and stability in order to maintain, and expand, its economic success.
This is the weakest part of the main argument. Israel does need security in order to support its economic well being, but it is far from certain that it needs peace in order to do so. And even if peace was a necessary element for Israel's economy, it is not obvious that the leftist peace project would actually secure peace. Thus far, almost 17 years since the beginning of the "peace phase" of Israeli politics with the ascension of the late Itzhak Rabin to the premier ship in 1992, there has been a lot of Peace talk and very little peace.
More fundamentally, Avishai's thesis is dependent upon an alliance between the Israeli Center and Israeli Arabs and Palestinians. Avishai's description of Israel's Jewish society is piercing and effective, if not particularly original. But the Arabs of his book are almost entirely non-existent, represented by a few chosen interviewees, who express views very far from the Arab mainstream (in the case of one of them, Dr. Azmi Bishara, the views expressed do not even represent his own views - Dr. Bishara, an Israeli MP, has been charged with treason and has escaped Israel). The notion that there would be an Arab constituency to participate in a "Hebrew Republic" is farfetched.
See for example, Avishai's discussion of the discrimination of Israeli Arabs. Israeli Arabs are economically disadvantaged and politically marginalized. Much of the gap has long historical roots the goes back to the beginning of the 20th century, if not before. But it is also due to official and semi-official negligence. Government expenditure on Jewish Israelis is much larger than government expenditure on Arab Israelis.
An element that Asiahai downplays, if not ignores completely, is the part Israeli Arab leaders play in the situation. The overwhelming majority of African Americans responded to social injustice with a call of egalitarianism; Only a minority desired separation and black nationalism. Among Israeli Arabs, the response has been almost exactly the opposite. Discrimination is attacked not only in and of itself, but as a manifestation of the evils of the Zionist state. They agitate not for individuals but for collective rights. Their model, acknowledged or not, is Louis Farrakhan, not Martin Luther King.
The struggle in Israel and Palestine is one between two national movements. As long as this conflict rages, attempts to circumvent it by transforming it into a struggle for equality are bound to fail. For an outsider, Avishai's vision may seem inspiring and attractive - but it is a dream unlikely to be embraced by either Jews or Arabs.
on March 16, 2010
The Hebrew Republic has, IMO, three parts. The first part illuminates various historical, sociological, political and demographic issues and challenges facing Israel that are definitely worth learning more about and this is the strongest part of the book. The later part of the book gives the author's vision for how Israel can thrive in the future in many ways (and in ways that some Israelis thrive today). The third part of the book is the missing part which would've discussed how we can move from the problems outlined in the first part of the book to the vision the author has for a thriving Israel. While I don't recall that the author ever promised a plan to get us from the the challenges to his vision, I felt let down that he lacked any real plan to bridge the gap.
I was left more saddened than not after reading this book. The challenges to Israel are serious, well laid out here and worth learning more about if you care at all about Israel and the author's vision sounds reasonable. Not discussing how we might go from problem to solution leaves me thinking there may not be any obvious way or the author would've mentioned it (and these challenges are not trivial).
I gave this book four stars because I thought it was excellent in one part, good in another and missing in another (although admittedly it was never explicitly promised). Bottom line, I recommend this book as a way to learn more about aspects of Israel that are not discussed elsewhere and/or as well.
on March 13, 2010
A sobering account of the demographic and philosophical dilemmas facing the people of Israel. Avishai's optimistic thesis is that the high tech economy will provide the Israeli political center with the justification it needs to control the radical fringe on the right that now disproportionately dominates the national agenda. He argues that the rest of the developed world, and especially the E.U., will not tolerate a partner that prevents a sizable fraction of its population from fully participating in their own governance. Similarly, the small but growing Palestinian entrepreneurial culture in the West Bank needs Israeli partners to be successful on the global stage. These two fragile motivations could in theory get the constipated polities on both sides of the Green Line to move in positive and synergistic directions. Provocative, unstinting, and stimulating.
on May 14, 2014
Interesting book .....read it for my book club. Would recomend it. It gave a new perspectve on the economic issues.
on April 9, 2008
The author of the book is a self-described member of the Israeli "elite" that has sunk into deep despair in recent years with the collapse of the so-called "peace process" they foisted on Israel and the demographic rise of groups they fear such as the Zionist and non-Zionist Religious communities and the working class people of non-European origin. This "elite" are the successors of the secular, largely Ashkenazic Labor Zionists who controlled the Jewish community in Eretz Israel both before and after the creation of the State of Israel in 1948. The author, seeing that their control is in danger attempts in this book, to create a new ethos for the State of Israel which he hopes will allow this group to maintain its control and to weaken the political power of the right-wing and religious groups they (unjustifiably) fear. Avishai's solution to this "elite's" existential crisis is to try to ally it with the Israeli Arab sector which is also demographically healthier than the secular, Ashkenazic elite. This, he suggests, can be done by replacing the view of Israel as a "Jewish State" and replacing it with, as he calls it, a "secularized, globalized Hebrew Republic." Avishai is not the first to suggest something along this line, in actuality it is a more "fleshed-out" version of Shimon Peres' "New Middle East" of the Oslo 90's. That was when Peres wanted Israel to join the Arab League and he stated that the "Arabs had no choice but to make peace because they don't want to miss out on globalization".
The basic premise, is, as I understand it, that if Israel makes itself less "Jewish" and more "Hebrew", it will become less offensive to the rest of the Arab Middle East. Avishai, to his credit, says he is not taking a "Canaanite" line and saying the Jews should transform themselves into something else, but Jewish values and tradition would be restricted to the realm of private religious observance and cultural expression, but "national" expression would be more culturally neutral (although "Hebrew"). The basic premise of this book is that while the Arabs presumably find "Jewish nationalism" offensive, it is thought that an Israel without this "Jewish" national identity and in which the Arabs are seen as full partners (as they are not today, due to Israel's definition of itself as a "Jewish state"), would eventually find the Arabs reconciling themselves to this "Hebrew" entity in their midst.
Like so many ideas "progressives" fall in love with, it may sound fine in theory, but the reality is quite different. In reality, such a state would be far MORE threatening to the Arabs than the current "Jewish state" with which they have so many problems. In spite of what Peres said about the "inevitability of globalism", the Arabs (along with many "progressives") FEAR globalization and certainly don't want this Hebrew state in their midst spreading its influence. The Arab states organize their economies not around maximizing economic growth and increasing the standard of living of their people, but rather, preserving the economic and political control of the various families and clans that have that power today. Also, Islamic groups that wield varying degrees of power in the different Arab countries FEAR the cultural tide that comes in with the "globalized" economy and culture. Avishai has stated that he is convinced (based on polls of unknown reliability) that most Israeli Arabs really want to adopt the culture of the secular Israeli Left. This scares the traditionalist elements in the Arab/Islamic world....bringing with it things like pornography, feminism, disrespect for elders and authority figures and most of all, Islam. These things are very important in the Arab world and yet Avishai is promising somehow that having a Hebrew state spreading these values will NOT spark even more Arab opposition to Israel.
The Arabs also fear Israeli economic domination. Alon Liel of Israel's Foreign Ministry, (a close friend of Yossi Beilin) stated that Egypt, for example, opposes any more normalization of Israeli's relations with the Arab world since they view it as damaging their position in the Middle East for this reason.
In reality, the Arabs would have an easier time accepting a MORE Jewish state...a state more based on Jewish tradition because traditional Jewish life is much closer to that of the Muslims/Arabs than Avishai's secular Hebrew state. It will be easier for an Israeli gov't run by what Bernie considers to the "settlers and Ultra-Orthodox" to reach true peace with the Arabs than his secular Hebrew state.
By tempting the Israeli Arabs with his vision of a globalized secular Hebrew state, Avishai is trying to tear these Arabs away from their brother Arabs and Muslims. This is, in the eyes of the Arabs, simply another Crusade aimed at converting the Arabs/Muslims to another "religion" or culture. Traditional Judaism is not a "missionary" religion, so it poses much less of a threat to the Arab world.
Avishai is also very concerned that Israel's economic standing in the world would be threatened if it isn't seen to be "accomodating" to the demands of "progressives" in the West, but this fear is greatly exaggerated. Most informed people in the world realize that the the impossibility of reaching a contractual peace between Israel and the Palestinians is not based on any policies Israel is carrying out, but rather extremist, rejectionist policies of the Palestinians themselves (both HAMAS and the supposedly more "moderate" FATAH) tied in with the spreading influed of anti-Western radical Islam. In any event, Taiwan is prospering economically and they have diplomatic relations with very few countries, so we see that if a country makes products people want to buy, they will be able to sell them.
The bottom line is that if Israel were to convert itself into Avishai's "secular globalized Hebrew State", it would lead to GREATER antagonism and hostility from the surrounding Arab/Muslim world. Only by Israel returning to its Jewish roots can a true modus vivendi (even without formal peace treaties) ever be reached.
Avishai does point out many of the anachronisms of Israel's political system and the desperate need to make it more representative, efficient and democratic, but the basic premise of this book is flawed. I call upon those who realize that a "Jewish State" is as relevant as ever today to take up the challenge that people like Avishai represent and come up with their own view of how Israel can move forward and can do more to accomdate the interests of the Arab minority as well.