Tzipi Livni on Why Israel Needs a Constitution

More

It's no secret that Israel is suffering from an identity crisis. The term "Jewish state" once seemed a fairly simple synonym for a nation with a Star of David on its flag. Now that term sparks all sorts of debates about demography, democracy, and the future of a country where the minority may soon be the majority. 

The Ideas ReportTzipi Livni stands at the political epicenter of this crisis. She is the head of Kadima, a party that emerged when Ariel Sharon became a few shades too liberal for his fellow Likud members. Today, centrist Kadima is Israel's largest party, but the complicated electoral system means Livni must sit and watch while Benjamin Netanyahu's coalition government runs the country. 

For that reason and many others, it's not surprising that Livni is frustrated. During this talk with Aspen Institute CEO Walter Isaacson, she insists that the Israeli people need to figure out who they really are. Isaacson asks if Israel could come up with a constitution at this stage in the game. Livni answers yes, but she qualifies her answer: She says that two of the country's most significant groups -- ultra-Orthodox Jews and Israeli Arabs -- would refuse to participate in its writing.

The complicated nature of this answer only underscores the dilemma Livni describes. Unlike the United States, Israel doesn't have a harmonizing mission or creation story. Its Jewish founders saw its purpose in a myriad of different ways -- as an idealistic socialist experiment, as a pragmatic refuge from genocide, as a placeholder nation waiting for the Messiah to resurrect the real Israel. 

Add to the mix a growing population of Arabs who, unlike their relatives in the territories, hold full Israeli citizenship, and the prospect of a unifying document becomes very tricky indeed. Here, Livni attempts to explain how a constitution written without input from minorities could still protect their rights as citizens.

More video from the 2011 Aspen Ideas Festival

Jump to comments
Presented by

Jennie Rothenberg Gritz is The Atlantic's digital features editor. More

Jennie Rothenberg Gritz, an Atlantic senior editor, began her association with the magazine in 2002, shortly after graduating from the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. She joined the staff full time in January 2006. Before coming to The Atlantic, Jennie was senior editor at Moment, a national magazine founded by Elie Wiesel.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.

Video

What Makes a Story Great?

What makes a story great? The storytellers behind House of CardsThis American LifeThe Moth, and more reflect on the creative process.

Video

Tracing Sriracha's Origin to Thailand

Ever wonder how the wildly popular hot sauce got its name? It all started in Si Racha.

Video

Where Confiscated Wildlife Ends Up

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.

Video

Is Wine Healthy?

James Hamblin prepares to impress his date with knowledge about the health benefits of wine.

Video

The World's Largest Balloon Festival

Nine days, more than 700 balloons, and a whole lot of hot air

Writers

Up
Down

More in Global

Just In