From majority rule to partnership – principles of just cooperation in a Jewish and Democratic state

By: Lior Tal Sadeh, Co-CEO of the Democratic Institute

*The article is about to be published in the book: "#Democratic and Jewish - Creating an Israeli Gold Trail", published by Yedioth Books 2023

Majority rule is a constraint, not an ideal. At the heart of Democracy lies the exchange of a coercive and forceful approach with one that allows each person and community to thrive in their own way. Majority rule is part of the forceful approach. The majority imposes its power on the minority through state institutions. In Democracy, this method should only be used if there is no other choice, and if options for dialogue and for reaching an agreement have been exhausted. Sadly, the majority rule has become the default mode of action.

Israeli society split into tribes and splits developed between those tribes. Some splits resulted in divisions within single tribes, while other splits divided tribes into allies and adversaries. Such splits do not pose much of a threat to stability. However, there are also tribe-based splits—the most dangerous of them all—in which demonic perceptions of the other could develop, such that, in a time of crisis, all sense of solidarity and partnership is lost. This situation has been radicalized by digitalization, with the echo chambers and rabbit holes that come along with it.

The state has active roles under these circumstances: empathetic familiarity, dialogue that leads to regulation, help in creating a shared life alliance, and determining the boundaries of what can be considered reasonable. Using a detailed example, this article suggests that in disagreements related to the Jewish state, methods of consociational, participatory, and procedural democracy can be implemented in order to make decisions. I am hopeful that believing in dialogue, participation, and mutual responsibility is not an exaggeration. A wise man once said: if you will it, it is no dream.  

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