chapter
Democratization and the domestic political environment
Pages 28

Relative to the neighborhood, Israel is a robust and thriving democracy. Judged by the standards and parameters of the Western concept of liberal democracy, Israel has all the necessary institutions, processes, laws and practices: rule of law, due process, pluralism, freedom of speech, association, and movement, free and democratic elections, institutionalized transfer of power and so forth. Yet large portions of its population consider themselves under-represented, second-class citizens and discriminated against, be they of the Palestinian minority inside Israel, Bedouin Arabs, Jews of Eastern origin, Ethiopian or even Russian immigrants. Women, a far broader group, are also treated as a minority, at the bottom rank of even these minorities as well as among the population at large. A majority of the population, women are grossly under-represented (if not entirely excluded) from major decision-making bodies and leadership positions and have no equality in most sectors of society. While the women’s movement in Israel has indeed succeeded in improving the situation of women over the past twenty years, following feminist models developed in various Western democracies, it achieved at least a formal (legislative) victory aimed at the pinnacle of democratic rights: the right to be a part of decision-making with regard to national security. Inasmuch as Israel is a country engaged in a long, ongoing and often violent conflict, decision-making on matters of national security holds a critical and venerated place in Israeli society and the Israeli body politic. This regard for – one might even say obsession with – national security may itself be misplaced, eclipsing many critical social, economic and political matters, but for many it serves as a litmus test for Israeli democracy.