From Our Chief Executive: June, 2019

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After witnessing the Israeli Knesset voting to dissolve itself only 50 days after the election, Israelis are preparing to return to the ballot box in September. Whilst it might feel as if we are simply winding back the clock and repeating the last elections, we must avoid seeing the forthcoming elections as a Groundhog Day scenario. The reality is that the political landscape in Israel has changed remarkably and in two key ways we should be alert to.

Firstly, the last election campaign was sullied by incitement and racism: mistrust of the ‘other’ became the norm, e.g. Arab citizens of Israel experienced outright attacks on their political participation. Cameras were secretly installed in polling stations. The scars do not easily disappear.

We have also learned through the failed coalition negotiations what the terms were for the next prospective government. The prime minster tried to assemble a government premised on unconditional immunity, constitutional reforms to dismantle the power of the Supreme Court, and a commitment to some annexation of the West Bank. These assaults on Israeli democracy hang in the air as Israelis prepare for yet another round of elections.

Any one of these changes would transform Israel’s democratic structure and standing. At the New Israel Fund we are proud to support Israelis who are defending Israel’s democratic institutions, protecting minority rights and the rule of law.

One small step we have taken is to launch an immediate response to the elections: a new and exciting Shared Society Grassroots Fund. This will give small grants to local initiatives in Israel doing high impact work to help bolster critical partnerships and rebuild trust between Jewish and Arab citizens. The hundreds of proposals we have received speaks to the many Israelis far removed from the glare of national politics who are working to rebuild trust. You can support the fund here.

These Israeli voices of tolerance and democracy are the future that NIF is betting on. And it is the path that we know will prevail whatever the coming months and September’s Knesset elections will bring.

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