Sallai Meridor
Ynetnews (Opinion)
December 13, 2011 - 1:00am,7340,L-4160670,00.html

During my service as the Israeli ambassador to the United States I often leaned on Israeli democracy, our freedom of speech and equality among the sexes to promote Israel's status.

The congressmen who opened their doors and their hearts to me did so because they believed they were meeting with someone representing the only democracy in the Middle East. Their constituents, Americans who are currently facing rising unemployment and both a national and a private recession, continue to support the US' alignment with Israel – even when they are the only ones in the world to do so.

They fund 20% of our security budget, out of the basic belief that we share the same values and face the same enemies.

Though US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton erred in the comparison she made in regards to Israel, we cannot ignore the dangers Israeli democracy is facing.

Many surveys indicate that the sense of shared values is a major source of the vast support Israel enjoys in the United States. Americans believe in freedom and equality and they are certain that we do as well. This positive affiliation in now in danger. Israel, whose house of representatives is dealing blows to democracy and freedom of expression; whose government has members who are fanning the flames of xenophobia, and whose military now features the exclusion of women, may eventually weaken the support given to it by its biggest friend and strongest ally in the world.

Anyone familiar with the history of our people, including its ruination and revival, and who wishes to ensure our national future in a difficult region, would be better not to dismiss the long-term meaning of Clinton's warning. International legitimacy and the strategic support of a major world power have been, and will be, a vital part of our people's national resilience.

Fighting for the future

But we have more than just Clinton to be worried about, for the sake of our country and our children's country. What kind of Israel do we want to live in? Do we want our judges to be at the mercy of politicians, both from the Right and the Left, and to render their rulings under duress? Do we want a society where the majority – today it's us and tomorrow it's them – tramples the minority? Do we want to build fences between our sons and daughters and see our women excluded from the public sphere? Do we want the kind of politics that turns us against our neighbors?

Turbid times are threatening Israel. Predatory nationalism is trying to push liberal nationalism, as put forward by Herzl, Jabotinsky and Begin, to the sidelines. This trend is particularly dangerous because its creators are not restrained heroes, but unruly politicians, who are fanning primeval feelings of fear and hate.

The minority cannot stop this trend on its own and the majority is usually oblivious to the dangers until it becomes the minority itself; so this is where a leader must truly prove himself. This is Netanyahu's biggest test.

In matters like this, the prime minister is the only "super-tanker" there is. If he does not put out the fire emanating from his camp immediately, Israel's international standing won’t be the only thing to suffer. The fire will eat away at the Israeli society, will threaten to spiral out of control and will scorch the very breath of Zionism. Bibi – put out the fire.


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