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The Hebrew Republic: How Secular Democracy and Global Enterprise Will Bring Israel Peace At Last Hardcover – Bargain Price, April, 2008
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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.)
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ADVANCE PRAISE FOR THE HEBREW REPUBLIC
“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
Top customer reviews
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.
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.