JCPA LOGO
Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

See More Jerusalem Center Studies

Complete
List of
Issue Briefs

 
Institute for Contemporary Affairs
founded jointly with the Wechsler Family Foundation

JERUSALEM ISSUE BRIEF

Vol. 4, No. 24     21 June 2005


Democracy as a Component of Security

Silvan Shalom
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs


  • Despite the popular assumption that simply holding elections is a guarantee of moderation and responsible government, history is full of examples where democratic processes have been exploited by despots for very non-democratic purposes.

  • We must all reject the inclusion of Hamas in the Palestinian political system. There can be no place in a democratic society for a political party which bears arms, for a political party engaged in terrorism against the citizens of a neighboring country. No democratic regime can survive if it lets terrorism and politics proceed side by side.

  • Israel is working to implement as many steps as possible to ease conditions for the Palestinian population, and is working with the donor community, the World Bank, and the Quartet's Special Envoy for Disengagement, James D. Wolfensohn, to ensure that the maximum number of international actors are involved in the collective effort to rebuild the Palestinian economy.

  • There are some in the Arab world who see normalization of relations with Israel as a "prize" for Israel, but this is mistaken. While Israel can benefit from improved relations with its neighbors, Israel's standing in the international community and its economic well-being are not determined by its Arab neighbors.

  • The real and crucial benefit of the normalization process we seek will be felt on the Palestinian side - where it will strengthen the moderates and weaken the extremists, helping to expand constituencies for peace and build the necessary critical mass for further progress.


Three Pillars of Peace

The last four and a half years of bloodshed have distanced us greatly from realizing the vision of peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Both peoples share a clear interest in bringing not only temporary calm, but the total removal of violence from our daily agenda. The harrowing pictures and the fear from the terrorist bombings must end, once and for all.

The only way for this to happen is through an uncompromising battle against the extremists, who reject all forms of moderation and compromise, and who continue to fly the flag of terror, and to prepare themselves accordingly.

We must act to strengthen the key pillars upon which peace will be built - security, responsible and democratic leadership, and economic progress.


Security

There is no longer any debate as to the critical importance of security in the ability to make peace. This understanding is reflected in the demands on the Palestinian side in the first phase of the Roadmap and in the international demand for security reform in the PA. It is reflected in the World Bank's report on the economic prospects for the Palestinian economy. It is reflected in the statements of world leaders, and also in the statements of Abu Mazen himself.

Israel insists on the end of terror and the dismantlement of its infrastructure, for the safety of our citizens. Without the fulfillment of these Palestinian obligations, the political process has no hope of succeeding.

Yet, promoting security is not just a technical matter for the military. It is - at its core - an issue of cardinal values, and political institutions and culture.


Democracy and Leadership

Palestinian society is currently undergoing a process of choosing a new group of leaders through elections to key institutions and positions. Israel welcomes these democratic processes. We are convinced that the spread of democratic values, institutions, and processes among our neighbors is the key to ensuring the stability and prosperity of all the peoples of the region. But here, as in the security sphere, there is no room for discounts.

Despite the popular assumption that simply holding elections is a guarantee of moderation and responsible government, history is full of examples where democratic processes have been exploited by despots for very non-democratic purposes. Therefore, we must make a clear distinction between procedural democracy based on process, and real democracy based on values and world view.

The clear Palestinian and Israeli interest lies in the establishment of a Palestinian leadership committed - as Israel is - to a strategy of peace and reconciliation:

  • A leadership prepared to educate for peace - one which acts to institute a transformation of values and thinking away from conflict and struggle towards peace and coexistence.

  • A leadership which is prepared to act with authority, and take full responsibility for what happens within its jurisdiction.

  • A leadership which does not seek to justify its own passivity by blaming Israel for everything.

  • A leadership which applies the law fully, and does not allow armed militias and other groups to bear arms.

In this context, we must all reject the inclusion of Hamas in the Palestinian political system. There can be no place in a democratic society for a political party which bears arms, for a political party engaged in terrorism against the citizens of a neighboring country. Such groups pose a danger not only to the security of the citizens of Israel, but also to the very possibility of maintaining Palestinian democracy itself.

This is true in the Lebanese context as well. A notion gaining popularity in certain circles is that it would be helpful for organizations like Hamas and Hizballah to be integrated into the politics of their societies, despite their involvement in terror against Israel. However, no democratic regime can survive if it lets terrorism and politics proceed side by side. The fate of such a regime is to bring a catastrophe upon its own people and its neighbors.


Economic Progress

Israel is working to implement as many steps as possible to ease conditions for the Palestinian population - including the removal of roadblocks, the release of prisoners, the granting of work permits, and the coordination of practical elements of the disengagement plan.

Israel is working with the donor community, the World Bank, and the Quartet's Special Envoy for Disengagement, James D. Wolfensohn, to ensure that the maximum number of international actors are involved in the collective effort to rebuild the Palestinian economy and bring real benefits to the Palestinian people.

As the Palestinian effort to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure proceeds, so too will this positive agenda be able to grow and expand.


Role of the Arab World

On many occasions I have called for our Arab neighbors to normalize relations with Israel. There are some who see this as a "prize" for Israel, but this is mistaken. Of course, there is no doubt that Israel can benefit from improved relations with its neighbors. But Israel's standing in the international community and its economic well-being are not determined by our Arab neighbors.

The real and crucial benefit of the normalization process we seek will be felt on the Palestinian side - where it will strengthen the moderates and weaken the extremists, helping to expand constituencies for peace and build the necessary critical mass for further progress.

The hesitation, passivity, and unrealistic benchmarks set by the Arab leaders on this issue only serve to strengthen the extremists, who seek to perpetuate the conflict and the pain.

There is a new hope in our region. We have an opportunity which we must not miss. Israel is committed to doing everything in its power to seize this opportunity. We wish to work with our Palestinian neighbors and with the entire international community in order to ensure our success.

*     *     *

Silvan Shalom is Israel's Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister. This Jerusalem Issue Brief is based on his presentation at the Institute for Contemporary Affairs in Jerusalem on May 9, 2005, together with PA Interior Minister Gen. Nasser Yussuf.


Dore Gold, Publisher; Yaakov Amidror, ICA Program Director; Mark Ami-El, Managing Editor. Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (Registered Amuta), 13 Tel-Hai St., Jerusalem, Israel; Tel. 972-2-5619281, Fax. 972-2-5619112, Email: jcpa@netvision.net.il. In U.S.A.: Center for Jewish Community Studies, 5800 Park Heights Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21215 USA, Tel. (410) 664-5222; Fax. (410) 664-1228. Website: www.jcpa.org. © Copyright. The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of the Board of Fellows of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

The Institute for Contemporary Affairs (ICA) is dedicated to providing a forum for Israeli policy discussion and debate.
To subscribe to the Jerusalem Issue Brief, please send a blank email message to:
brief4-subscribe@jcpa.org