Panelists consider problems, progress of Israeli societyPosted on December 3, 2013 | by Ann Schmidt
The NYU School of Law hosted three prestigious Israeli leaders for the Center on Law and Security’s panel Israel, From the Inside Out. The panel, which was moderated by Leon Wieseltier, the literary editor at The New Republic, included three panelists — retired Chief Justice Dorit Beinisch, Council on Foreign Relations Distinguished Fellow Stanley Fischer and NYU Law professor Moshe Halbertal. Beinisch, Fischer and Halbertal discussed their experiences and thoughts on current issues within Israel.
Zach Goldman, executive director of the Center on Law and Security, said the purpose of the event was to better understand the domestic politics of Israel.
“The Middle East strategic picture has been changing rapidly in the last weeks and months,” Goldman said. “And the strategic orientation of Israel is a key component of those shifts in the public discussion of those issues.”
Fischer, who was also the former governor of the Bank of Israel and a former top official at both the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, spoke about the current economic status of Israel.
“If you’re a macroeconomist, which I am, [Israel’s economy] is a significant success story for a country with a per capita about two-thirds of the United States,” Fischer said.
Fischer also talked about some of the current problems with Israel’s society in terms of its demographics, growing economic inequality and increased property value.
“All these problems are interrelated,” Fischer said. “And they relate to the education system and how it’s structured.”
Beinisch, the president of the Supreme Court of Israel from 2006 to 2012, explained how she views the judiciary branch in the Israeli government.
“The role of the court in a democratic society is to protect the rights,” Beinisch said. “It is an independent judicial system. It is an apolitical judicial system.”
Beinisch said these apolitical qualities help maintain democracy and justice in the complex Israeli society.
“Our courts have the power to be so important and relevant in our society because we have so many problems because of the composition of our society,” Beinisch said.
Halbertal said the various groups of people in Israel understand the necessity for an agreement, but the lack of trust among them could hinder the process.
“This is a complex problem,” Halbertal said. “This will have an impact on the very identity of the state.”
Laurent Wiesel, 36, said he found the panelists’ discussion about the sense of detachment in the lives of the Israelis and the large political issues to be important subjects.
“Politically, if Israeli people are not motivated in some way to change the status quo, then, in a functioning democracy, there wouldn’t be the kind of pressure on the politicians to make the big decisions that most people understand need to be made,” Wiesel said.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, Dec. 3 print edition. Ann Schmidt is a staff writer. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.