Prof. Uriel Reichman and Maj. Gen. (Res.) Amos Gilead in a conversation about domestic threats
A conversation between Prof. Uriel Reichman, founding president and chairman of the Board of Directors of Reichman University, and Maj. Gen. (Res.) Amos Gilead at the Security & Policy Conference convened by the Institute of Policy and Strategy at Reichman University
From Prof. Reichman’s remarks:
“We are living in very difficult times. When I look at Israeli society, I cannot stay quiet in light of what we are seeing. The problems are very difficult ones and I see enormous gaps that are opening amongst us. We have heard a lot about security problems, the Palestinian problem, economic problems… These are all means to the existence of the state. The question is, what are we existing for? What is the reason, what is the vision, where do we want to go, and do we have a common vision at all? Without a vision, we are in a state of disintegration.
“When you look at Israel today, there are some things that must be focused on. Firstly, we’ve lost control. The situation in the south – violence everywhere, people are afraid to travel on the roads. It’s just like during the British Mandate, when people were scared to drive through areas controlled by Arabs. In the north the situation is no better; the violence in the agricultural areas has recently surpassed all records. There is an Arab population that burns, steals, and destroys in order to take over agricultural land in the future. And then there are the instances of what is happening in the mixed cities. The most horrific thing is what we saw happening recently after al-Aqsa and the operation in Gaza.
“When Herzl first presented his vision of the Jewish state, he said, ‘we cannot guarantee that there will always be blue skies, but no Jew will ever be persecuted because of his religion.’ We’re living in a difficult situation; we are being attacked on all fronts, but we also have violence from within. The extreme right is growing increasingly violent; organizations like Lehava attack Arabs because they are Arabs, there are “price tag” attacks in the territories and other violent frameworks… we reached a situation where there were 230 assaults in hospitals, where people were beating up doctors and nurses. How can this possibly be tolerated? There is a situation here in which we are losing control and sovereignty.
“There is another aspect, that of ultra-Orthodox society. An autonomy has been created outside of the national framework. They established a state within a state and they do what they want. We have seen violence by an entire tribe created within Israeli society. It is inconceivable for a policeman representing the State of Israel to have no control. Then there’s the media – with the traditional media, there was control, there was a degree of monitoring – you couldn’t say whatever you wanted. Today, everything is possible, there are no boundaries, and it’s very easy to spread fake news.
“What is happening before our eyes is that Netanyahu is the head of a very successful brand in which he calls himself the right, and whoever is not with him is the left. And in their discourse, left is dirt and right-wing is good. I was appalled by what is happening on social media, calls for murder, humiliation, calls for what is referred to as ‘altruistic injustice.’ We’ve reached a situation in which we’ve lost control of groups that are becoming more and more radical.
“A glorious legal system was established here. But on social networks we see an attempt to erase the legitimacy of the police, of the courts. The State of Israel has a vision. The State of Israel was established because of its right to self-definition. This right is rooted not in the nation-state law, but in the second most dramatic and important moment in the history of the Jewish people – the declaration of the establishment of the Jewish state. And this declaration is the document in which Israel presents its self-definition. The first most important document to the Jewish people is the Ten Commandments, and the Declaration of Independence is the second.”
Prof. Reichman concluded by saying, “The main goal of the Declaration of Independence was the ingathering of the exiles, for Israel to be a home for every Jew. It established a value system, and the principle of striving for peace as a fundamental value of the state. Zionism was established to create an exemplary society based on moral and ethical values, a society that can protect and support itself and provide dignity to every Jew. This framework must be maintained. It is being threatened by certain groups in Israeli society.
“Reichman University was established as a Zionist university based on the principles of the Declaration of Independence. We must emphasize this above all else.
“We must act to make sure that we do not allow the sovereignty and vision of the State of Israel to collapse. This is a powerful and human vision that enabled the establishment and preservation of a Jewish state, while being completely ethical and moral.
“The main message that we as a university teach is the matter of the responsibility that we all bear to preserve and protect the country not only physically and economically, but first and foremost in terms of the vision and values of the state. If we don’t do this, nothing else will help and we will crumble from within.”