Democracy is what has kept America growing, and kept it flourishing.
The ability to choose our leaders and have a voice in the affairs of our country, whether we live in the largest cities or the smallest towns, are not just values we treasure as patriotic Americans, but they are fundamentally keystone to our success as a nation and the stability of the North American region.
With that lack of democracy in the Middle East, the people will always have something to fight for.
A Region of Turmoil
The struggle for freedom and democracy in the Middle East has persisted since the region was controlled by the Ottoman Empire a century ago. Even then, its people hardly enjoyed living under a feudal empire that imposed military conscription and heavy taxes, among other decrees.
The injustices inspired many revolts throughout the empire, and the Ottoman Empire responded with harsh cruelty and even genocide, most famously the Armenian Genocide of 1915.
Arab factions in the Middle East came together to join forces with the British to defeat the Ottomans in World War I. However, the unity was not strong enough to keep them together.
Most factions were loyal to their villages or tribes before anything else, with some exceptions, including most notably the Jews. Even though the Jewish people were still relatively small in numbers during those times, they were well-unified by Zionism.
When the Ottoman Empire ceded its Middle Eastern territory, the allied powers began carving up the region into independent regions. While the dust of the First World War settled, more Jews flocked to Palestine to escape persecution or find a new opportunity.
At this time the Jews lived in primarily self-governed communities called kibbutzim, and as their numbers grew they began to organize and adopt more democratic procedures.
During the Cold War that followed World War II and with Israel’s declaration of independence, the United States took a special interest in spreading democracy in the Middle East. In contrast, the USSR hoped to spread communism.
Both superpowers supplied nations and factions with weapons and resources, but none have ever quite achieved the level of success and democratic freedom that the world might have hoped for… except for one little country that God has kept a protective eye on…
“I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great;
and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you, all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
While other Middle Eastern nations have suffered through brutal dictatorship regimes and oppressive laws, Israel has elected every one of its leaders. Israeli laws continue to evolve to benefit not only the Jewish people that the state was created for, but all Israeli citizens, neighbors, and humanity.
Today, Israel is the only fully democratic nation in the Middle East. More than half of the Israeli population are registered voters, and since Israel’s first election, voter turnout has usually exceeded 70%.
How Does Israeli Democracy Work?
While freedom and the will of the people are core values of democracy, not all democratic governments function the same way. The system we have in the United States was designed with the size and diversity of our country in mind; similarly, the Israeli government is structured to suit a nation with a different population, one the size of New Jersey.
- The Israeli Knesset is the legislative branch of the government, similar to the American Congress.
- The Knesset creates and passes Israeli laws and has 120 seats which are filled by representatives of various political parties that are elected by the people.
Instead of voting for individual candidates, Israelis vote for the parties, and the number of votes each party gets determines their representation in the Knesset. Each party will have a list of candidates ranked in priority for seats in the Knesset.
- Anyone over 21 years of age may serve on the Knesset, and both secular and religious Jews, Arab-Israelis, and women all serve on the Israeli Knesset.
- The President of Israel is limited to one seven-year term and is elected by absolute majority by the Knesset. The current president is Reuven Rivlin. His duties are primarily to endorse laws and appointed officials such as the Prime Minister.
- The Prime Minister of Israel is the defacto head of state because he or she wields more executive power and oversees departments related to research, logistics, and national security. There are no term limits for the Prime Minister.
- The current Prime Minister of Israel is Benjamin Netanyahu of the conservative Likud party. He was once the finance minister of Israel, and during that time in close partnership with our organization.
Read more about our relationship with Prime Minister Netanyahu here.
- The Israeli supreme court makes final decisions on legal cases and handles most cases that involve the government.
- The number of justices has varied over the years, but all members of the court are appointed by the Judicial Selection Committee, which is made up of a variety of government officials.
- Unlike the United States Supreme Court, Israeli justices may serve until the age of retirement, 70.
Military and National Security:
- The Israeli Defense Forces operate as a unit comprising of its ground, air, and naval forces. The IDF is headed by The Chief of General Staff who reports directly to the Defense Minister and indirectly to the Prime Minister.
- Men and women are required to serve in the military for three and two-year minimums, respectively. In recent years especially, women have also served in combat units.
- Israel’s intelligence and counterterrorism agency, the Mossad, operates as part of the Office of the Prime Minister.
The Future and Path to Stability Is Israel
The presence of a high-functioning democracy in a region that overall lacks freedom, makes Israel an oasis in ideology as much as an economic opportunity.
With the United States by its side, Israel has gained significant political capital and influence, and with the world starting to recognize Jerusalem as its undivided capital city, Israel is closer than ever to establishing a lasting and permanent peace with Palestine and its neighbors.
Given Israel’s track record for rapid development and soaring success, the future looks bright for the region as the flourishing democracy in the Middle East continues to grow and expand. But our friends in Israel are not alone in this journey.
The United States has invested greatly in the development of Israel, and there has been a huge return for both countries. Find out more about our partnership with Israel and how you can invest in one of world’s youngest and fastest growing democracies.