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The Hebrew Republic: How Secular Democracy and Global Enterprise Will Bring Israel Peace At Last Hardcover – April, 2008

3.6 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Addressing the state of Israel's democracy as well as security, Avishai (The Tragedy of Zionism), a contributor to the New York Review of Books, presents a three-fold approach to obtaining long-term peace and security. Most original and no doubt controversial is the idea of establishing a Hebrew republic that would be patently the state of the Jewish people, but would not privilege Jews and Judaism. (Avishai details current discrimination against Arab Israelis.) The other parts are negotiating a peace accord with the Palestinians along the lines of the Geneva Initiative and forming an Israeli-Palestinian-Jordanian economic union. Avishai distills his approach through conversations with 50 Israeli-Jewish, Israeli-Arab and Palestinian figures, including former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, novelist A.B. Yehoshua and Samir Abdullah, director of the Palestine Economic Policy Research Institute. He also has a fascinating discussion with some young Israeli Jews who wrestle with how Jewish, and how integrated into the Middle East, Israel should be. His plan for economic union will be achievable only with a peace accord, and Avishai has little to say on how to get there. But he covers a great many key topics relating to Israel's internal dynamics as well as its regional and global position, now and in the future. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.



“During the past two decades, Avishai has emerged as one of the most eloquent and penetrating analysts of the Israeli scene . . . This volume can only add to Avishai’s reputation. It is indispensable reading even for veteran students of the Jewish state.” —Howard M. Sachar, author of A History of Israel

“Anyone who cares about Israel, the Palestinians, or peace should read The Hebrew Republic—a comprehensive analysis, a compelling vision, a wrenching cri de coeur. Of all the brilliant, brave voices heard here—and there are many—none is as indispensable as Avishai’s, with this book, has now become.” — James Carroll, author of Constantine's Sword


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Harcourt; 1 edition (April 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0151014523
  • ISBN-13: 978-0151014521
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.4 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,894,360 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Matthew Smith on January 11, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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.
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Format: Hardcover
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.
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Format: Hardcover
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.
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