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Israel’s Politicians Need To Grow Up And Start Representing The People – Opinion

Israel’s Politicians Need To Grow Up And Start Representing The People – Opinion

JJ Sussman

NATIONAL UNITY head MK Benny Gantz speaks at a party event, last week. The only party with significant upward movement in polls is the only party openly calling for a unity government and compromise, says the writer. (photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/FLASH90)

Last week, I was sitting with a donor, talking about the ongoing protests and political stalemate we find ourselves in here in Israel. Naturally, we both lamented the state of affairs and found a significant point of agreement: We can’t afford not to continue trying to find our way out.
We can’t give up – this country means too much to us to just sit back and let it fall apart.

He agreed that this year, in order to help us bring together people from both sides of the spectrum in dialogue and discussion, he would increase his annual donation by a factor of five.

Fast forward to a few days later. I received an email from an Israeli I had never met, now living on the US West Coast. In the email, he recounted how, in the 30 years since he left Israel, he has not been more fearful. He had searched for an organization involved in helping to facilitate dialogue and communication between two sides that are seemingly drifting further and further from one another. He cares too much to just sit idly by and watch it continue.

He wanted to become part of the solution.


Protests against the judicial reform in Tel Aviv, May 6, 2023. (credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)

Finally, in a third episode just a day later, I was meeting with a venture capitalist friend of mine. While he was sure that the hype of the economy collapsing is overblown and that this, too, would pass, he was concerned enough to express his feelings that we need to put an end to this crisis and sit both sides down to figure out a way forward together. No one is going anywhere, and the only way forward is to build a cohesive society.

He, too, upped his donation, by 100%.

On my travels to the US recently, a former classmate asked me how I can be optimistic about what’s going on in Israel; reading the newspaper headlines from afar leaves him no room to see a way forward. As he put it, the hype has replaced the hope. So I sat down with him for a cup of coffee. I showed a recent poll that said that one-third of Israelis are thinking about picking up and leaving due to the current situation.

Yes, I said, when I saw that I too, was aghast. But then I searched and found headlines from a few years back: In 2012, a similar question was asked. The hysterical headline in a leading newspaper read that almost 40% of Israelis are contemplating leaving Israel.

“So,” I concluded, “we are actually making progress. In just a decade, the numbers have gone down.”

Next, I showed him a recent poll. I’m not taking a political stand when I point out that the only party with significant upward movement is the only party openly calling for a unity government and for compromise. The National Unity Party, in the most recent polls, would garner 28 seats in the Knesset – a huge increase from the 12 seats they currently hold.


Israelis need a solution

The people want agreement. The people want a solution.

Our phones at Gesher have been busier these past months than at any time in recent memory. Schools want programming to meet “the other.” Some of the largest organizations in Israel are calling and asking us to facilitate dialogue and discussion for their rank-and-file employees. Our summer camp with religious and secular youth just concluded its busiest season to date with over 500 campers. There’s a thirst for community and connection; for compromise and consensus; for dialogue and discussion.

And we are doing our best to quench that thirst. More and more people are looking for ways to connect to platforms like Gesher that are bringing us together – not tearing us apart! The people are speaking up, asking for change. The solutions to the crisis may come from the grassroots efforts to sit down and talk.

As Rosh Hashanah approaches and we get set to enter 5784, it’s about time for the politicians to grow up, and finally act like the representatives of the people.

This article originally appeared in the Jerusalem post on September 11, 2023. Read the original article.

JJ Sussman is the International Director of Gesher, where he is responsible for forging partnerships and strategic relationships for the organization. Over the last five years he has led numerous delegations of Israeli civic leaders to experience the challenges and opportunities of Jewish communities outside of Israel. JJ joined Gesher after having worked for 15+ years in Israel’s high tech industry. He is lives with his wife and six children in Modiin, Israel.