Judicial reform debate is good for Israel, says professor

Dr. David Passig of Bar-Ilan University believes the controversy will eventually lead to a new, agreed-upon national ethos – and a Constitution.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

A Bar-Ilan University specialist in examining the future told Globes Tuesday that he is optimistic that the hotly debated judicial reform plans of the Israeli government will ultimately lead to something very good for the country – a new, agreed-upon national ethos and even a Constitution.

Dr. David Passig, an associate professor in Bar-Ilan University’s Graduate School of Education who teaches about technological, social and educational aspects of the future and is a student of historical processes, said that although most people on both sides of the issue agree that Israel should continue to be both a democratic and a Jewish state, “there is an entire generation that does not know what democracy or Judaism is.”

“Now everything has risen to the surface, and that’s excellent,” he said. “Both sides are going to learn from each other. They won’t do it by choice, but they will do it out of necessity.”

It won’t happen quickly, however. In Passig’s opinion, the “really difficult” process of building “one nation with a cohesive identity” has succeeded on the military and economic planes, with the country first concentrating on making a safe haven for the Jewish people that can stand on its own two feet. But it will take “another 70 years or so” to address the “in-depth issues,” because history has repeatedly shown that it takes “150-200 years” for “the establishment of new national entities with clear self-determination, a constitution, and equitable laws,” he said.

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The “crisis” that is the controversy over judicial reform “is the impetus for the creation of a new Israeli profile that will resonate better and be perceived as more relevant among large segments of the population,” he said optimistically. “It will not be secular or religious according to current definitions, it will have a sense of belonging not only nationally but also culturally, ethnically, and religiously.”

This “middle ground” where most Israelis are found, as he put it, will be represented by a constitution, which “is the essence of the ethos that is our generation’s lot to formulate and create, that grand idea which clarifies the uniqueness of Israeli nationalism. Therefore, a constitution is the thing that will truly define what it is to be Jewish and democratic.”

He again cautioned that it will take time. “This process will take us 20-30 years to realize, and we must be very tolerant of this process, because it is very difficult but healthy,” he said. The two necessary conditions, he added, are that there can be “no physical violence” and that “no group renounce responsibility, and refuse to take part in the process.”

The job of the politicians, he declared, “is to keep the war of wills at low intensity, until the thinkers formulate something worthy of a political compromise. Otherwise, they may only add fuel to the fire.”

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Passig was also absolutely certain of another point: “If anyone thinks everything will be over by the next Knesset session – they’re delusional.”