Photo: Gilad Kavalerchik
As a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, the New Israel Fund does not support or oppose any candidate or political party for election. This article includes direct quotes from speakers and those made by politicians as a means of news reporting, but they do not reflect the position of the New Israel Fund, nor are they intended to influence the election.
The Haaretz Democracy Conference, co-hosted by the New Israel Fund (NIF), took place on Monday in Tel Aviv. Senior Israeli political figures participated in the conference including Prime Minister Yair Lapid, Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Minister of Transportation Merav Michaeli, Meretz Chair Zehava Galon, Hadash-Ta’al Chair Ayman Odeh, American journalist Thomas Friedman, Former Deputy Prime Minister Tzipi Livni, Knesset Members, and senior figures from the cultural, media, and business worlds as well as young people voting for the first time in next week’s election. The Conference concluded with a special recorded speech from Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
It was a packed day that included interviews and panel discussions that dealt with, among other things, the upcoming elections, the impact of the “change” government, and media, social, and economic issues.
NIF Israel Director Mickey Gitzin highlighted the importance of fighting for progress, telling conference-goers, “With my hand on my heart, I say that the biggest leaps of progress that have happened in Israel did not come about because of some supposed consensus. They were borne from the pain of brave people who were on the margins of society and struggled for years and demanded progress. Not just for themselves, but so that it would be just, good, fair, and equal for all of us here.”
Prime Minister Yair Lapid said, “Israeli democracy is in grave danger, but I’ve never been more hopeful about the future.” He continued, “if we make the right moves, if we make the right choices, this place can flourish.”
Defense Minister Benny Gantz warned of the threat extremism poses to Israel’s democracy,, “If after the election, there is an extreme and racist government, we will be transformed within a very short amount of time from a liberal democracy to a hollow democracy.”
NIF Board Member and Chair of NIF’s International Council Talia Sasson spoke about the existential threat facing Israel’s legal system, “Israel is in the midst of a struggle for the essence of its existence. Whether it will remain democratic or not. Everything has been created out of this. But the right-wing want to make the legal system a loyal subject of the political system.”
Thousands of young people are voting for the first time in this election. Adian Handi, a young Arab woman from the “mixed” city of Lod spoke movingly about the violence she’s seen in her community. Thirteen people murdered on her street, all of them people she knew; her six-month-old brother choking on tear gas fired by police in 2021.
Handi made a plea to Israel’s political leaders, “We don’t need you to be on TikTok. We don’t need you to be cool. We need you to make change. I’m asking you to do your job honestly until we get the safety we need, because I refuse to call a mother and tell her she’s lost a son.”