Israel’s historic opportunity

With the establishment last week of a broad national unity government in Israel – brought about by the Kadima Party’s bold decision to join Prime Minister Netanyahus government – I believe that Israel is on the crossroads of major positive change.

I have been the leading voice in Kadima advocating for this unity agreement, and I believe it provides Israel with an opportunity to make historic advances in several critical areas.

Consider our history. Over a brief 64-year period, the Jewish people have managed to gather their shattered pieces, re-establish sovereignty in their ancient homeland and build a thriving democratic Jewish state.

Seventy years ago, our grandparents were marched helplessly into the gas chambers at Auschwitz. Today, our children walk confidently and freely through the bustling streets of modern Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa.

Israelis should be and are very proud of their achievements. Our society is free and open. Women’s rights, minority rights and the rights of the disabled are enshrined and vigorously defended. The Knesset in Jerusalem is one of the most vibrant and open parliaments anywhere. And our scientific, medical and technological inventions improve lives around the globe.

At the same time, Israel has unique challenges. Unlike any other country in the world, Israel constantly faces hostile neighbors and existential threats. Domestically, we are beset with many social and economic tensions.

The urgent need to make peace with the Palestinians increases daily. Our system of government needs stability and increased transparency. And the burden of military conscription is not shared equally by all parts of society.

Fortunately, I can say with confidence that today the Israeli government has a unique chance to create the real change Israelis have been waiting for.

Three months ago, I entered the race for the Kadima Party leadership with a clear message: Israel must form a unity government coalition for the sake of national stability and the ability to legislate meaningfully.

I am immensely pleased that the seeds planted during my primary campaign have helped yield a broad, rock-solid unity government, whose governing base can now support transformational legislation in four key areas:

Historic territorial compromises with the Palestinians that lead to a lasting peace;

Electoral reform that will boost transparency and accountability in Israel’s government system;

A fundamental change in the distribution of conscription burdens in Israel, making national service more equally distributed across all sectors of Israeli society; and

Legislation that even more deeply anchors Israel’s Jewish and democratic underpinnings.

While skeptics argue these goals are overly optimistic, I truly believe that with overwhelming public support, action will soon be taken on all these fronts.

After all, according to the polls 80 percent of Israelis desire a lasting two-state peace solution with the Palestinians, 57 percent of Israelis favor an overhaul in government accountability, and 82 percent of the public believes that military burdens should be more evenly shared.

Israelis strongly desire these core issues be tackled. As the government of Israel, we have a responsibility to seize this rare opportunity. Once we do, Israel will be strengthened, united and even more prepared to confront any threat.

Avi Dichter is a senior member of the Israeli parliament for the Kadima Party and a former Israeli minister of public security and director of the Israel Security Agency, Shin Bet.

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