The Middle East

The Center for Israeli Progress (CIP): Progressive Ideas for a Sustainable Israel

The Center for Israeli Progress (CIP) Progressive Ideas for a Sustainable Israel:
Israel promoting security, justice and achievement

Contents

Executive Summary 3

Introduction. 6

Background and Need for Action. 7

Political Analysis 10

The Peace Camp as a political force no longer exists 11

Social solidarity, economic, environment and sustainability 12

Israel – the State of the Jewish people and all of its citizens? 12

Building on existing efforts, charting new terrain. 13

The Center for Israeli Progress (CIP) – Progressive Ideas for a future of thriving and peace in Israel – the Objectives  15

Target audiences 16

CIP’s Agenda – Progressive Ideas for a Secure, Just and Free Israel 17

Lead Researchers, Research Associates and Young Researchers 17

Research Programs 18

Social Affairs 18

Economic Policy 18

Security Affairs 19

Energy & Environmental Affairs 19

Israeli-Palestinians (citizens) 20

Palestinian Affairs 21

Israel-Arab Relations 22

Israel-US Relations 22

Education. 23

Jewish world/Diaspora relations 24

Gender issues 25

Political/Democracy Affairs 26

Religious-Secular – Finding the common elements of a shared identity 27

Jewish-Islamic Dialogue and Search for a Celebration of Diversities in the State of Israel 28

Global Issues 28

Immigrant integration. 29

Settler Reintegration. 29

The disaffected and apathy in Israeli society 30

How we work. 31

Program Activities 31

Media presence. 31

Political agenda. 31

Monthly Polling. 32

Panels and Brainstorms 32

Roundtable Program. 32

Young Researchers Program. 33

Bi-Weekly Briefings for Legislative assistants, ministerial advisors and activists 33

Publications 33

The Web site and Blogs 33

Annual Board Event – Annual Policy Conference. 34

Mass outreach. 34

Why we need a change….. and quickly! 35

What is a Progressive Agenda? 36

Leading Israeli Think Tanks – Where is CIP’s Market and Value-Added? 38

Founders Gershon Baskin and Dahlia Scheindlin. 40

Executive Summary

General Objective: To establish the Center for Israeli Progress as a leading think-tank dedicated to improving the lives of Israelis by developing ideas and actions through the prism of a progressive agenda. The focus will be to articulate a clear, pragmatic direction for Israeli politics that will assist in reconstructing the progressive side of the Israeli political map.

Specific Political Objective: To help to rebuild a progressive electable political alternative to the existing right-wing, conservative and ultra-orthodox governing establishment.

Based on the models of Center for American Progress and the Democracy Corps, the Center for Israeli Progress will:

  • Address the peace agenda with the goal of transforming Israel’s identity from a society which is overly centered on the military to a true civilian community; to reshape Israel’s economic priorities away from the “military takes all” approach; to re-channel our best talents and minds and hard work into science, arts, culture and justice.
  • Address the deepest divisions, inequalities and injustices in Israeli life today. There can be no real economic reprioritization without movement on the peace process, however; there can also be no postponing serious social action on the issues that threaten to break apart Israeli society: the widening gaps of rich and poor; the narrowing gap between money and government; the chasm between religious and non-religious; the increasing threats to state authority, and the dangerous climate of hate to other communities and minorities within the society.

CIP’s Comprehensive Research and Action Agenda includes the following:

  • Social Affairs
  • Economic Affairs
  • Education
  • Security Affairs
  • Israeli-Palestinians (citizens) – expanding the basis for shared citizenship
  • Palestinian Affairs
  • Religious-Secular – Finding the common elements of a shared identity
  • Political/Democracy Affairs
  • Gender Issues
  • Israel-Arab Relations
  • Israel-US Relations
  • Jewish World/Diaspora relations
  • Energy & Environmental Affairs
  • Jewish-Islamic Dialogue and Search for a Celebration of Diversities in the State of Israel
  • Global Issues
  • Immigrant integration
  • Settler Reintegration
  • The disaffected and  disaffected and apathetic in Israeli society

Program Activities

  • Political agenda – Through its work CIP will propose to:
  • Build, revamp, strengthen existing political parties that have progressive agendas to be cleaner, more democratic, more accountable to citizens and more reflective of their needs
  • And/or lay the groundwork for a new model of party in Israel. One based on grassroots; social issues at the fore rather than celebrities; substance over style.
  • Monthly Polling – CIP will have an active polling program with an in-house pollster designing the research polls and focus groups.
  • Panels and Brainstorms – Convening regular and frequent panel discussions and brainstorming sessions bringing in a representative cross-section of thinkers and participants from outside the center. CIP will seek voices and listen to concerns of various groups in society to provide them with a political voice that could be incorporated within a broadly representative progressive agenda. CIP panels and brainstorming sessions will be dedicated to developing the “new language” and a progressive narrative to test those messages amongst different audiences.
  • Roundtable Program – Each program area of the center will be responsible for organizing and running the roundtable program aiming to trigger public debate towards shaping the public-political discourse.  These programs will be open to the public and the Public Relations department of CIP will be in charge of using this opportunity to develop a constructive relationship with the media.  The Roundtable program will aim to be provocative, forward and progressive, challenging the government and the ideology of the right wing with a new alternative agenda and discourse.
  • Young Researchers Program – CIP’s Young Researchers Program will recruit graduate students from Israel’s universities and colleges to join the research team on specific projects.  The Young Researchers will be guided by the Lead Researchers and by the Associate Researchers. The papers produced by the Young Researchers will become a unique and dynamic publication series of CIP, in hard copy and online.
  • Bi-Weekly Briefings for legislative assistants, ministerial advisors and political activists – The legislative assistants of Members of Knesset have considerable influence in directing the attention of the MK to issues, ideas, and sources of information. These assistants, along with political advisors to Ministers and other activists from various political parties will be invited to attend policy briefings with distinguished fellows and officers of CIP. By engaging these people in CIP’s activities, we will seek to create the desire of politicians to want to know what CIP has to say about the issues that concern them.
  • Publications – CIP publications will include the following:
  • Research reports reflecting CIP’s research agenda and fields of specialization
  • Polling/public opinion reports
  • “The Progressive Approach” a monthly presentation of progressive policy analysis and proposals
  • Alternative Legislation – proposals from CIP on a progressive agenda for legislation dealing with legislative initiatives already tabled in the Knesset as well as proposed legislation not yet being dealt with
  • Op-ed collections – monthly publication of op-ed pieces authored by CIP researchers and board members
  • International press
  • The Web site and Blogs – The CIP website will be the life-blood of the organization.  Dynamic, aggressive, proactive, engaging – these are the code words that will guide the webmaster and the CIP staff. The voice of CIP to the Israeli public and to the world is an essential tool in the 21stcentury.  The CIP web site will contain written, video and audio content. All publication, lectures, roundtables and CIP events will be accessible on the site. CIP researchers and staff will be encouraged to have their own CIP blogs linked on the site. Interaction with the public is the guiding principle of the CIP website.
  • Interactive new media outreach. Chat forums, viral emailing, coordination with grassroots campaigns such as any future “moveon.il” type projects.
  • Annual Board Event – Annual Policy Conference – This will be the main public event of the year. The event will focus on policy reviews and focused on engaging leaders, public personalities, key thinkers, together with CIP research staff and others.  The event will have sessions on all of the fields of CIP’s agenda and will aim at a public engagement “blitz” at the media and the public.  The event will be broadcast live on the internet.
  • Mass outreach. Town hall meetings and ongoing forums to convene citizens from all sectors of society to capture ground level thinking and integrate citizen-generated ideas into policy.
  • Media presence. Utilize traditional television, print, radio and film outlets to saturate the mainstream media with progressive messages, data and ideas and influence mainstream opinion formers.

The Center for Israeli Progress (CIP) Progressive Ideas for a Sustainable Israel:

Israel promoting security, justice and achievement

Introduction

Israel needs a new and revitalized progressive political force.  The Center for Israeli Progress is the means to bring this vision to fruition.

The Israeli “Left” virtually disappeared in the 2009 elections. The decline of the left has been a gradual yet steady process over the past 12 years. Some observers comment that the “left” is not needed anymore because the mainstream of Israeli society has adopted the agenda of the old left. While it is true that even right-wing political parties have now adopted the “two-states for two peoples”  that were once the domain of the left or the peace camp, Israeli mainstream parties and body politic has not adopted a set of values on which the old left-wing agenda was based.  Positions can move, values don’t seem to cross over so easily.

There is no political camp in Israel which presents a progressive agenda based on progressive values. Progressive ideas can take hold and develop roots in Israeli society, but it cannot simply be done by creating a new political party with charismatic personalities leading the way.  It is necessary to rethink the issues, explore the values on which progressive policies must be based and then to translate them into political ideas and leadership which can win the hearts and minds of a majority of Israeli society. A new language is necessary, a new narrative must be found and a comprehensive policy focused agenda must be developed that provides progressive answers to solve Israel’s main challenges and to move Israel forward.

There is precedent for such an approach.  The Heritage Foundation, described by political historians as having played perhaps the central role in navigating the rise of the American conservative movement from obscurity in the ’60s to the organizing principle of governing right-wing politics in the ’80s and ’90s, began with a core group of creative thinkers articulating a coherent conservative worldview and its implications for the American future.  It at the same time began to create mechanisms for influencing policy-makers, future politicians and public opinion.  On the Left of the US political map, the Center for American Progress (CAP) was founded in 2003 to provide long-term leadership and support to the progressive movement in the US. CAP’s ability to develop thoughtful policy proposals and engage in the war of ideas with conservatives was unique and very effective. We are proposing a similar initiative for Israel.

The Center for Israeli Progress will be a think-tank dedicated to improving the lives of Israelis by developing ideas and action through the prism of a progressive agenda. We will combine bold policy ideas with modern communications platforms to help shape the national debate, expose the hollowness of conservative right-wing governing philosophy, and challenge the media to cover the issues that truly matter. We will translate the values of freedom, liberty, shared identities, celebration of diversity, economic, social and environmental justice into new ideas and actions for Israel firmly rooted in the economic, cultural and political realities of the 21st century.

Our policy experts will cover a wide range of issue areas, and often work across disciplines to tackle complex, interrelated issues such as national security, energy, and climate change.

This will mean deep, creative thinking to generate progressive policies, ideas, and activities. It will mean building new frameworks to draw people in. It will mean coordinating with all others doing similar work, to best leverage all our energies. Thus there are three activity components:

  • Policy and social action
  • Outreach and communication to Israeli public and policymakers
  • Feeding our ideas into other existing groups who can build on or implement them, or who will benefit from our expertise to determine courses of action
Background and Need for Action

Two years ago, Israel celebrated its 60th Anniversary with fanfare. Two years later, it is difficult to predict if Israel’s next 60 years carry the promise of peace, security, and prosperity, or a much less happy future.  Israel needs a progressive national policy agenda that will lay out our vision of a progressive Israel, a leading member of the community of nations.

Israel’s Declaration of Independence promised that Israel would be founded on the principles envisaged by the prophets of Israel – ensuring complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.

Young people are increasingly driven to passionate narratives of nationalist fervor, built on the pernicious foundation of racism and xenophobia. Others flee into foreign territory of other countries and mystical religions – losing the vast wealth and heritage of the Jewish culture to cynicism and anger. Universities in Israeli are in crisis. There is a significantly low priority and low-level of investment in higher education, including library acquisitions. Universities are conservative in their attitudes and methods in many fields, and the insistence on the separation of the academy from society lessens their importance and prestige on issues which are crucial to the country.

The Israeli peace movement has dwindled in numbers and most Israelis no longer consider themselves amongst its ranks. The Israeli left was almost wiped off the political map in the 2009 elections.  Those who remain in the peace camp or who identify themselves as being progressive are on the defensive. Ironically, progressive citizens who are ready to take action are dismissed with the pejorative label “left” or “bleeding heart.” Yet these are pains felt deeply and acutely by every Israeli. We have more troubles than joy in common. We are united only by loss, anger, and our enemies. And yet society would prefer to place blame instead of thinking creatively.

Those of us who were long typecast as the “left” – radicals, naïve, Arab-lovers, self-haters, weak and subversive, are no longer interested in those critiques. We are tired of the country using accusations of “elitists” to close its eyes to the realities we describe. The crisis of society is exacerbated by the utter lack of trusted and trust-worthy leadership. Our national representative body, the Knesset is not taken seriously. Precious days of legislation paid for by taxpayers are wasted on politically expedient laws while regular people struggle with rising VAT and a global financial crisis, barely closing the month.  Daily we are subjected to blatant injustices in what seems to be a society that has lost its sensitivities to suffering of individuals and groups on the margins.

Perhaps in response, citizens flee anything that recalls public life. In a society that used to pride itself on unusually high volunteerism and public-political engagement, today interest in public engagement leaves people cold; news consumption is down as society is increasingly privatized, individualized and atomized; the collective good or a shared sense of community is fading into a past young Israelis will never know firsthand.

In addition, the democratic institutions of the State have lost a lot of their legitimacy in the eyes of the average citizen. At least three major forces in society openly reject the authority of the State and have openly challenged its monopoly on the use of force. The average citizen today scoffs at the public institution of the law.

  • Haredim attacked municipal workers and burned down civic infrastructure as protest against the rule of law.
  • Settlers posted signs openly calling to fight the Israeli authorities with force against future dismantling of unauthorized, illegal settlements – citing the Haredim as an example that violence is the only language that succeeds.
  • Organized crime, although facing increasing crackdown, still has a grip over industries, gray and black markets and trafficking, against which police forces are largely impotent.

It wasn’t the left who invented rogue settlements that are suicidal for the country’s future. It wasn’t the left who invented Haredi behavior that recalls organized crime gangs – in response to the workings of the law attempting to protect the weakest. No one invented these things: but those of us committed to Israel’s future say, enough political name-calling, enough hiding behind vacuous political labels.

Israel needs progressive values. Israel needs a culture of communication within itself, and Israel needs to shun its own extremists who scoff at the rule of law – or else convince them of the value of returning to the fold. Israel needs to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict before the state loses its Jewish majority and turns into a place of minority rule, an intolerable, non-democratic nightmare.  It is a choice between ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or having the Israeli-Palestinian end the Jewish and democratic State of Israel.

What unites us is our profound commitment to making this country last and making it a place where Jewish people and every other citizen can thrive and achieve and live peacefully – even productively – with each other.  No group such as the “right” has a monopoly over our state symbols – we are as Zionist, patriotic and proud as anyone. No unholy alliance of religion and politics should be allowed to stain the Jewish heritage with political corruption, alienating generations of young Israelis who would rather be Hindus or Buddhists – anything not to associate with their corrupt image of stale religious authorities.

And regarding the conflict, the irony is that, at least in broad terms, the Israeli mainstream has adopted what was a main strategic theme of the left for decades: the “two states for two peoples” solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Yet beyond slogans, the Israeli leadership, neither “left” nor “right” has succeeded in implement that policy. The current leadership is not speaking honestly to the people. They talk about peace to disguise their actions, which are the opposite. They cynically use this situation to blame the other side, like a mantra. They insult the intelligence of any thoughtful Israeli, who knows that greater security comes with peace agreements, and there are no shortcuts – there are only detours that leave both our peoples stranded.

Our agenda is to celebrate every positive side of being Israeli and Jewish and also the positive side of being Palestinian-Israeli.  Israel is a dynamic country with tremendous potential.  The achievements of Israel in its 62 years are remarkable.  Israel’s democracy is vibrant and offers vast opportunities for citizens to affect public policy.  This kind of positive attitude is the narrative we claim in our efforts to recruit a genuine groundswell of progressive support –to help build genuine future political leadership.

We need to delve deeply into ourselves as a people, to critique, to analyze and to propose directions for a new progressive agenda. We have our principles and we invite each citizen to judge them with their own mind. If there are enough of us who agree, broadly, we will succeed in the needed changes.

The ABC’s of Progressive Values

Accountability, Caring, Change, Citizen participation, Common Good, Community, Compassion, Creativity, Democracy, Dignity, Diplomacy, Diversity, Empathy, Equality, Fairness, Freedom, Health, Hope, Justice, Joy, Liberty, Non-violence, Openness, Opportunity, Participation, Peace, Reason, Responsibility, Security, Social net, Transparency, Understanding, Vitality, Welcoming, eXuberance, Yearning, “Yes we can”, Zest

Political Analysis

Let us examine the political currents today.

  • There is almost no “Left” left in Israel. Political ideologies that held sway for most of the twentieth century are ill-matched to the challenges Israel now faces.  Those who identify with a “progressive” agenda are old; the young people are flocking to the hard-line and conservative forces or simply withdrawing from the public and political discourse.
  • New political parties fail to frame a new political agenda or vision, let alone one that reflects progressive values – and they fade as abruptly as they rise. Israeli politics are characterized today by stasis, cynicism and fatigue, and the foreboding sensation of being adrift.

The formerly progressive political groupings have failed domestically, because they had little, often nothing, to say about much of what matters most.

  • They have generally supported dismantling the institutions of Israel’s social democracy and wholesale privatization and reduction of social services, straying from its historic agenda of protecting people with the state.
  • Few new ideas have been produced for improving the vexed relationship between religion and State.
  • It offered tired, ineffective recommendations for ensuring that all citizens, majority and minority, have equal opportunities to thrive.
  • In their zeal to protect individual interests, they have often alienated many who balance their commitment to the individual with commitments to their community, their religion, and their country.
  • As its constituents come more from wealthy elites than from laborers, immigrants, the poor and other marginalized groups, the Israeli left has drifted from the social-democratic values it embraced in earlier generations.  It supported selling communal and national assets (public land, utilities and banks) to profiteering corporations; it has not provided enough support for public institutions like social services, schools, universities, and health care .
  • The Left until recently has been largely indifferent to the environment.  It has reduced public support for science, leaving business to fund research and determine its priorities.

There now remains no noticeable difference between the mainstream Left and Right regarding questions of what social services the State should provide, who should pay for them and who should receive them.

As regards domestic politics, there is no coherent message choosing individual or collective obligations, economic policy, religion, and the nature of society.

The Peace Camp as a political force no longer exists

The “peace camp” in Israel has vanished.  The recent elections in Israel told a clear story showing that voters saw mainly confusion on the conflict front, coming from the left.

  • During the war in Gaza which preceded the Israeli elections, with some small exceptions, there were almost no protests against the war.  Tel Aviv University’s War and Peace Index from December 2008 reported that 94% of Israelis support the war.[1]
  • Israelis no longer believe in the old slogan of the left “territory for peace”.  Most Israelis today understand that the more realistic equation is “territory for terror”.  The unilateral disengagement from Gaza added a new slogan to the public’s understanding – “territory for Qassams”.
  • The Oslo process was a great disappointment.  Few in Israel have been willing to face the reality that there are at least two sides to the failure.
  • Few Israelis appreciate that the occupation of Gaza never ended, even after the disengagement.  Very few comprehend that the unilateralism of the disengagement empowered the Hamas and weakened the moderates. And no one, it seems, will confront the reality that Israel’s collective punishment of Gaza provided the ideal excuse for Hamas to step up Qassam fire.
  • Almost no one is aware that Israel did not fulfill its obligations of withdrawal from about 90% of the West Bank prior to the beginning of permanent status talks.
  • Israelis are aware that Yasser Arafat played a dual game of supporting peace and terrorism at the same time.  In any event, the demise of the left is perhaps best summarized by the bumper sticker that was quite prominent during the Oslo years: “Oslo criminals should be brought to justice”.  This slogan was given credibility by even progressive politicians who spoke of the “victims of Oslo”, not the victims of war, or the victims of terrorism, or the victims of occupation.  The public quickly learned to associate peace with terrorism, and, as they said, “if this is peace, we don’t want it”.
  • The current mantra lies somewhere between “There is no partner,” and “let the IDF win,” as Israelis cling to the narrative that military force is the only language of negotiation.
Social solidarity, economic, environment and sustainability

The economic policies of Israel’s last half-dozen Prime Ministers have all been what economists call “neo-liberal,” a label that draws attention to the connection between the transfer of economic power to the private sector from public government and the privileging of private individual rights over public and communal obligation. The communitarian ethos that was once a defining characteristic of a sizable portion of Israel’s population (but certainly not all) has given way to an ethos that prizes individual achievement and autonomy over communal responsibility.  It is not just Israel’s economy that has become neo-liberal; Israeli society has as a whole.

It is regrettable that the communalism and solidarity of earlier generations have eroded, leaving in disrepair social democratic institutions that diminished social and economic disparities (as far from perfect and equitable as these institutions were), in favor of so-called liberal individualism.  But abandoning communalism for a faux liberalism that still discriminates against a large swatch of the population because of their religious and ethnic identity is worse than regrettable.

Israel lacks and needs politics committed to the liberal ideal of providing every citizen equal opportunities, but politics that at the same time takes seriously communal values and social solidarity, on a local, ethnic and national level.  Israel needs politics that recommits itself to protecting not only our individuality, but also the common goods that we all share, and upon which we depend, but which both right and left have abandoned.  Environmentalism, to some extent provides a language with which to understand how our fates are interconnected.  The common goods of water, air and lands are shared by all Israelis, and as we increasingly understand, all peoples, now and in future generations.  But Environmentalism alone is not enough glue to hold us all together. The green politics of Europe (for example the German Greens), and the nascent communitarian politics of the United States (for example Barack Obama) are attempts to forge a path that has been traditionally called progressive, but are truly attempts to redefine what progressive politics can mean, searching for new mixtures of liberal rights, cultural identity, and the public good. We need the same here in Israel.

Israel – the State of the Jewish people and all of its citizens?

In Israel we face the limits of Israel’s liberal values in the place of “minorities” in society.  Palestinian citizens of Israel are, by virtue of their ethnic, religious and increasingly political identities, regularly denied an equal place in Israeli universities, social institutions, politics and more.  There are professions that effectively bar Palestinian-Israelis, government entitlements for which Palestinian citizens will never qualify, and educational opportunities denied to them, by virtue of their identity.

The crisis of the Left in Israel is demonstrated by the success of the Israel Beitenu Party of Avigdor Lieberman with its racist and xenophobic agenda. Lieberman’s success is partly a consequence of the Gaza war that preceded the February elections. For many Israelis, the fighting seemed to underscore the futility of peace talks with the Palestinians and the failure of Sharon’s unilateral disengagement from Gaza, putting a question mark over progressive ideas for accommodation with the Palestinians, and making right-wing calls, like Lieberman’s, for the use of even greater force to solve the problem attractive to many voters. The war also heightened Jewish perceptions of Israeli-Palestinian’s empathy with the Palestinian side, sparking an anti-Arab backlash, which Lieberman exploited to the hilt in his anti-Arab “no citizenship without loyalty” campaign.

The Jewish-Arab divide struck a particularly sensitive chord among Russian speaking voters. Defining the Arab as “the other” gave them a stronger sense of belonging to mainstream Jewish society. Lieberman’s Arab focus cuts right to the bone, because the population distribution in the 1990s was left to market forces, many immigrants settled in mixed Jewish-Arab cities where prices for housing were cheaper. Today, in all these cities, there is serious friction between the two outsider populations, the Russian immigrants and the Arabs, which manifests itself on a day to day basis in an almost existential competition for work places, housing and places of study.

Building on existing efforts, charting new terrain

The challenge before us is only partly to shed the images of the past. The real challenge is to realize that a progressive agenda in Israel means something other than the old “peace camp” or even the “left.” These are old terms for a different era, and do not represent or appeal to the bulk of Israelis.

The progressive era means envisioning Israel as we believe it should be: democratic, just, peaceful, free for a plurality of religious expressions, inclusive and not exclusive, and a country that nourishes each individual and community to achieve their fullest potential; that welcomes its ethnic diversity and thrives on it.  It means devoting ourselves to this vision. It means inviting anyone who still believes there is a community to be built to take the responsibility of doing it.

A progressive Israel makes no apologies for the agenda before it, which are the only possible routes to a better society. This is not left, right or center: it is a proposal for a new reality, a new Zionism for this era.

  • Create a basis for a new Israeli sense of citizenship that allows and enables all citizens (including Palestinian-Israelis and all minority groups) to feel that this is their state and that they can be a part of shaping its agenda for a better present and a future of promise.
  • Bring the disaffected back in through a combination of economic and social approaches, by rebuilding the meaning of mutual solidarity and personal responsibility.
  • End the intolerable exclusion of or discrimination against new immigrant populations – Russian speaking, Ethiopian, French, Anglo or Latin American.
  • Bridge the religious – non-religious divide which has been exploited by the some of the secular left to create an anti-religious sentiment
  • Provide answers for Israel’s emerging environmental challenges
  • Remain firmly committed to values of human rights and interpret the practice of them in Israel meaningfully
  • Undertake unwavering efforts to end the occupation and make peace with our neighbors using all political, social, intellectual and human resources at our disposal – shunning all incitement and hate-related language
  • Recognize that politics continues to be the major arena of influence, work to generate the grassroots movements and support to become a major force in Israel’s government.

Since the elections in February 2009 there have been a number of attempts to convene small groups of thinkers trying to define a new course of action that reflects these values.  Most of the participants represent the same voices of those that have led the peace camp/the left for the past decades.  What is becoming increasingly obvious is that there is no systematic approach being developed for a strategy for rebuilding a progressive political force in Israel.

We know we are onto something true and important in the realization that all Israelis – both Jewish and Palestinian citizens – deserve equal opportunities and civil rights. Our society is not viable otherwise. This is also the case when we stress the moral imperative to end the occupation, and the need for Palestinians in the occupied territories to live safe and decent lives.

We will face the obstacles to peace squarely:

  • We know there are great difficulties in finding a negotiated solution that is politically workable on both sides.
  • We know that Israel does not unilaterally control the fate of the occupied territories, as the recent coup of Hamas in Gaza demonstrates.
  • We know there is hatred, anti-Semitism, incitement and terrorism among those with whom we are destined to make peace.

At the same time, we have also listened to our own society and we know that those who advocate strengthening the cultural and religious identities of Israelis are onto something vital.  We believe strengthening our cultural, religious and national identity can be done in a way that includes all citizens, while proudly cultivating our national character. We believe in seeking ways to build an ever more inclusive community, for creating a true democratic discourse whose goal is building a sustainable future for the benefit of all.

We believe in taking a long, honest look at Israeli political communities to draw the best from each side. From the traditional left we must continue to draw our commitment to justice (social, economic and environmental), informing our perception of the state’s responsibility towards all of its citizens’ welfare, especially disadvantaged groups and our commitment to peace and solidarity.

From the liberal tradition, we can draw an uncompromising defense of civil rights and freedom of speech, tolerance, pluralism, and the belief in every individual’s right to freedom, dignity, fulfillment, and meaning.

From religious tradition, we can draw respect for the collective identity (religion, national pride, community, and household), and the recognition of these as deeply-held human values in a heterogeneous society. This combination of cross-cutting political and human philosophies can become the basis for developing the language, narrative and agenda for a new progressive Israel.

The Center for Israeli Progress (CIP) – Progressive Ideas for a future of thriving and peace in Israel – the Objectives

The search to articulate a clear, pragmatic agenda that poses peace as the prerequisite for future Israeli advancement, social progress and greater internal equality is underway. Individuals and groups are already soul searching for new approaches to energize people and create new hope in the community of Israel.

The shared goal is twofold:

  • To address the peace agenda from all possible angles, take all possible action before the Israeli government and with Palestinian partners, to further this agenda – to support and not undermine; to acknowledge obstacles and address them one by one. The final goal: to transform Israel’s identity from a militaristic society to a true civilian community; to reshape Israel’s budget priorities away from the “military takes all” approach; to re-channel our best talents and minds and hard work into science, arts, culture and justice
  • To address the deepest divisions, inequalities and injustices in Israeli life today. While acknowledging that there can be no real budget reprioritization without movement on the peace process, we insist that there can be no postponing serious social action on the issues that threaten to break apart Israeli society: the widening gaps of rich and poor; the narrowing gap between money and government; the chasm between religious and non-religious; the increasing threats to state authority posed by any given community, be it settlers, Haredim, organized crime, deadly drivers, scofflaws from any community at all; the dangerous climate of hate to vulnerable communities such as homosexuals.

The establishment of the Center for Israeli Progress will utilize the energies of those endeavors and build on them.  The work of CIP will go beyond any one ideological community, be it the obsolete Left, the nationalist right and the frustrated center, to seek new progressive voices committed to the success of this country.  CIP will focus on how to build consensus around a political movement based on the value of human life, individual equality, and rejection of group discrimination in either rights or responsibilities. CIP ideas and vision will aim to reach the vast majority of Israelis and will strive to become a real political alternative in Israel that represents both clear progressive values and the people who believe in them.

Target audiences

The goals laid out above will be empty unless representatives of most sectors of society are included. Rather than perpetuate the growth of civil society advocates for increasingly fragmented interests, CIP is committed to incorporating the voices of multiple sectors of varying peripheries in Israeli society into the new discourse.  These include:

  • The urban working poor and disadvantaged
  • The geographic peripheries in the far north and far south of the country
  • Palestinian citizens of Israel
  • The religious and traditional Jewish populations
  • Russian and Ethiopian immigrants
  • The political “drop outs” who have lost interest in voting
  • Young disenchanted people who have lost interest and hopes in politics and in the notion of a shared Israeli society at large
  • Secular people who feel no one is really fighting to ensure democratic values or protecting individual civil rights against state-authorized religious coercion
  • Religious people who long for a healthier relationship with the non-religious community based on mutual respect and shared values of strengthening the state, while making a wider spectrum of Jewish religious life more accessible
  • The middle class who feels squeezed by suffocating taxes, but still believes firmly in social democracy, social safety nets and state responsibility for social welfare, equality and quality state services
  • Anyone who has ever felt exploited or used by a politician, who has felt her or his vote betrayed by politicians who care more about power than laws for the benefit of the people, who has been frustrated by a political party from Shinui to Shas for abandoning their values of commitment to the citizens.
  • Women who are under-represented in all echelons of public responsibility and power

The underlying message is a reaffirmation in the basic belief in Israeli democracy and in the ability of the citizens to have real influence in politics. We understand that at present, not all of these groups feel a kinship with one another and may even feel themselves in competition. But we maintain that the values underlying our activities unite all of us and will benefit all of these groups.

CIP’s Agenda – Progressive Ideas for a Secure, Just and Free Israel

With the establishment of CIP we will identify leading thinkers and researchers to head the following think-tank programs:

  • Social Affairs
  • Education
  • Economic Affairs
  • Security Affairs
  • Israeli-Palestinians (citizens) – expanding the basis for shared citizenship
  • Palestinian Affairs
  • Religious-Secular – Finding the common elements of a shared identity
  • Political/Democracy Affairs
  • Gender issues
  • Israel-Arab Relations
  • Israel-US Relations
  • Jewish world/Diaspora relations
  • Energy & Environmental Affairs
  • Jewish-Islamic Dialogue and Search for a Celebration of Diversities in the State of Israel
  • Global Issues
  • Immigrant integration
  • Settler Reintegration
  • The disaffected and apathetic in Israeli society
Lead Researchers, Research Associates and Young Researchers

A leading researcher will be hired on an annual basis to head each research policy area.  Each research program will bring in an additional 3 associate researchers on part-time fellowship basis.  Likewise, CIP will establish a Young Researchers Program for Graduate students who will be incorporated into each Research Group.

CIP’s Senior Policy Team will be composed of the following:

  • CIP Executive Director
  • CIP Assistant Director
  • Chair of the Board of Trustees
  • Research Fellows Director
  • Young Researchers/Interns Director
  • Advocacy Director
  • Director of Public Relations
  • The Lead Researchers
Research Programs
Social Affairs

Focus: Exploring systemic structures in the society which create discrimination, socio-economic gaps, welfare cases, perpetual poverty, and a sense of no ability to overcome life’s difficulties. This program will look at policies in the Health Ministry, Social Welfare Ministry, Economic Planning Ministry, Education Ministry and educational institutions and other political-economic bodies, such as the Finance Committee of the Knesset in which constant stasis exists due to the legislative and political stalemate within the Israeli political system.

  • Economic Policy
    The number of Israeli millionaires per capita is twice the world average. In contrast, more than 1.6 million Israelis out of 7 million live in poverty, including 800,000 children—one in three. Fully 42 percent of Israeli Arab families live below the poverty line, and those in poverty make up nearly 45 percent of the working population. This is set to worsen. Israel’s economic growth came to a standstill at the end of 2008, and 2009 Israel is facing recession. Exports, on which Israel depends, have fallen by more than 20 percent and industrial production by 6 percent. Thousands have been made redundant in the high-tech industries that account for more than 40 percent of Israel’s industrial exports. Unemployment is expected to rise from 5.9 percent to 8 percent by the end of 2009 and even higher in 2010 before the economy is expected to begin to revive. The major political parties are in favor of handing over billions to the banks and corporations, while Netanyahu still aims to lower taxes on the highest earners and reduce the top corporate rate from 27 percent to just 18 percent.

The focus of this research program will be: Developing economic policies that advance the economy of Israel while decreasing gaps between sectors of the society.  Creating greater egalitarian sharing of state resources while encouraging individual freedoms and rights and an entrepreneurial spirit. Identifying structural systemic problems of the Israeli economy that perpetuate poverty. Learning from successful models abroad, and developing Israeli solutions for spreading economic development to the peripheries (geographical and sociological).

Leveraging Israel’s top industries: the high technology sector and its engine, the entrepreneurial and investment sector, to generate social-improvement strategies. These sectors have already begun to develop a corporate-social consciousness and CIP will coordinate with them to make the most of their creative talents and financial resources.

Security Affairs

The security discourse is the main focus of Israeli political life.  Over the last decade, the Left in Israel has alienated citizens by failing to address the issue pragmatically; clinging to the dogma of peace in the hope that it would override security concerns. This is no longer realistic – we know that security (like economic development) cannot wait for peace but that all serious actors must address them both simultaneously.

Accordingly we now have a different approach: security must be addressed on both sides of the conflict, since the security of both are co-dependent and intertwined. On both sides, suffering generates tomorrow’s aggressors. There is no such thing as mutually exclusive security – that is a hoax of the past that has dragged down progress and held the conflict back. Hungry Palestinians means more brutal attacks. Terrorized Israelis means a faster finger on the trigger, and greater likelihood of dehumanizing treatment.

There is no avoiding two basic realities:

  • Both sides will continue to perpetrate violence on the other before any progress on peace is even underway
  • Each round of violence will ratchet up the anger and delay the progress towards peace.

We reject the notion that “Israelis only understand force”—violence against Israelis leads to hard-line voting, proven time and again.

Similarly, we reject the notion that “Arabs only understand the language of power and strength.”  Violence often leads only to success of more extreme political forces that leaves internal disarray – as we see at present.

The security affairs research will focus on developing the security discourse in a way that recognizes the real security threats to the State of Israel without being automatically “anti-Arab” or “anti-peace,” soft or naive. With no ideological constraints, we will acknowledge real security threats, but all policy ideas we generate will be predicated on the mutuality concept above – we won’t be safe until they are safe; they won’t be safe until we are safe.

Energy & Environmental Affairs

Thirty years ago Israel led the world in the use of solar technology (for heating water).  Today much of Israel’s energy technology can be found all around the world, much less is found in use in Israel.  Environmental planning in key and critical areas such as land use, water management, waste treatment, recycling, carbon emissions, bio-diversity, and perhaps more important – the whole field of intelligent consumerism and reuse (reducing our environmental footprint) need to be explored in greater depth in a policy approach.

The environmental crisis does not lie within the definition of a luxury whose handling can be postponed until all of our “existential” problems are solved. The environmental crisis is an existential problem. Environmental protection does not have to come at the expense of prosperity and development. Moreover, development ? economic, urban, industrial, or recreational, cannot take place disconnected from the

human society that it is meant to serve. It needs to respect Israeli citizens’ rights and their children’s rights to a clean environment and health. It cannot be conducted detached from questions of equality and of ethics towards people and other living creatures. We need another type of development: sustainable development.

CIP’s Energy and environment affairs program, in keeping with CIP’s progressive agenda will explore how environmental justice can be implemented in Israel’s development policies.  Environmental justice refers to relieving inequitable environmental burdens borne by groups such as minoritieswomen, and residents of economically disadvantaged areas. CIP will develop policy alternatives that seek to redress inequitable distributions of environmental burdens (pollution, industrial facilities, crime, etc.) and equitably distribute access to environmental goods such as nutritious food, clean air & water, parks, recreation, health care, education, transportation, safe jobs, etc. CIP’s program will look at the root causes of environmental injustices include institutionalized racism; the privatization of land, water, energy and air; unresponsive, unaccountable government policies and gaps in regulation; and lack of resources and power in affected communities.

Israeli-Palestinians (citizens)

Israeli politics is divided between the “Zionist camp” the “non-Zionist camp” and the “anti-Zionist camp”. For decades a majority of the Palestinian citizens of Israel found it reasonable to vote for “Zionist” political parties.  A gradual but steady shift in their voting patterns began to take place after Land Day of 1976.  The 1982 war in Lebanon, the first intifada, the October 2000 events, and the breakdown of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process have all contributed to the growing alienation of Palestinian-Israelis from Israeli society.  Ironically, Palestinian-Israelis main demands to the State are to integrate them into State institutions (treating them more like Israelis than Palestinians).  Palestinian-Israelis have definitely created for themselves a third identity (not a split identity as often incorrectly claimed).  They are on the one hand very Palestinian, but they are also, on the other hand, very Israeli.  The challenge of the research program on Israeli-Palestinians is to help to identify the basis for a shared citizenship in Israel for Jewish and Palestinian Israelis alike.

Israel is the national home of the Jewish people. Hebrew language and culture, Jewish identity and festivals, the special relationship with the Jewish world are all part of Israel’s essence. At the same time, Israel must be a state of all its citizens. There need not be a contradiction between these two definitions. Palestinian-Israelis are discriminated against, suffering economic, social, and environmental injustice. There exists an intolerable reality in which tens of thousands of Israelis live in unrecognized communities without electricity and running water and others suffer discrimination in land allocation for both agricultural and residential use, from unjust land confiscation, from poor-services in utilities as well as discrimination in the labor market and in primary and higher education. In a democracy, there should be collective rights for minorities and the right to preserve and develop their cultural heritage. Palestinian-Israeli schools should be entitled to teach and to promote their culture and teach Palestinian and Arab history. Like all Israel’s schools, this must be done alongside a core curriculum that expresses the values shared by all Israel’s citizens.

CIP’s research agenda will focus on the development of policies and ideas aimed at strengthening the concept of a shared citizenship.  The research agenda will confront the various scenarios concerning progress on the regional peace front as well as further deterioration and its effects on the internal relations within the State between the Palestinian and Jewish citizens.  This area of research and exploration continues to gain in importance and urgency as Israel faces a rise in the popularity of xenophobic and racist political parties.

Palestinian Affairs

Moving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict beyond the zero-sum game in the eyes of the Israeli public is the main focus of this research area.  Israeli political thinking on the Palestinian issue is frozen by fear and stagnation. The dreams of the New Middle East faded away with the continued realities of violence and the continued rejection of normalization by the Arab world, including the two countries with peace treaties with Israel.  The Israeli dream of “eating humus in Damascus” has been replaced with a narrative of “leave me alone”.  Using the fear tactic of the demographic threat if we don’t allow for the creation of a Palestinian state next to Israel is essentially based on a racist discourse which may be effective in creating a greater urgency for resolution of the conflict, but serves as a very poor basis for building trust, confidence, peace and reconciliation. The Palestinian problem is further complicated by the split within the Palestinian house between the national movement and the Islamic Hamas movement.

Many Israelis have lost their faith in dialogue and peace. The gathering power of extremists, hate and incitement, the rise of radical Islam, and Iranian nuclear development constitute threats to Israel’s existence and to the future of the Middle East. Any agreement signed by the relevant parties must guarantee the personal security of Israeli citizens. Any agreement must also provide guarantees for Israel’s safety from strategic threats to its existence, both short- and long-term. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the occupation, and violence have doomed generations to suffering on both sides: poverty, daily hardship, human rights violations, and chaos and uncertainty on the Palestinian side; terror attacks, rocket fire, and threats to national security on ours spawning deep human grief that must be alleviated.

CIP’s research agenda in this area will delve into seeking new approaches for resolution of the conflict, bridging the gaps, looking at areas for expanding the pie of opportunities towards Israeli-Palestinian understanding. More importantly, CIP’s agenda will look towards a new Israeli discourse for understanding how to resolve the conflict while enhancing Israel’s national strategic interests and security.

Israel-Arab Relations

The League of Arab States issued the Arab Peace Initiative (API) in 2002 and has ratified it three times since.  The API opened new opportunities for engagement with the Arab world that have not been pursued sufficiently by civil society and certainly not by the Israeli Government. CIP’s research agenda will engage in developing proposals advancing pathways towards mutual exploration of shared interests in the region. CIP will reach out to like-minded scholars, professionals, artists, and public opinion-makers in the Arab world to join forces in proposing breakthrough ideas and plans for advancing the mutual interests of all states in the region which can be advanced through greater cross-boundary cooperation.

Israel-US Relations

Israel-US relations is facing an exciting opportunity, but it is a delicate moment that could easily turn wrong.  The right wing government of Binyamin Netanyahu has led the Government of Israel into a direct confrontation with the Obama Administration on the issue of settlements.  If the peace process progresses, there is very likely to be more pressure from the US on Israel and more resistance from the Government of Israel.

In the past Israel has relied heavily on Congressional support to overcome pressure from the Administration. But the mood is changing in the US. There is less consensus that “knee-jerk” support for Israeli government policies are in America’s interest. There are more interpretations of what it means for a congressperson to be pro-Israel. The formerly monolithic American Jewish lobby has diversified itself, redefining the ways for America to support Israel by prodding towards the steps the whole world knows it must take.

This is a time when there must be an institutional Israeli counterpart to the new Jewish-American voices calling for change – otherwise, it will become a disconnected effort. We need to show that major forces here in Israel are backing the dawn of a new era, where the US can truly help guide Israel to the necessary actions for peace, as an unwavering friend and supporter. This is absolutely key to navigating the tricky waters of the shifting relationship which is understandably difficult for Israelis after years of the unconditional support paradigm. But Israel-US tensions are bad for Israel in every respect.  The US-Israeli relationship is a strategic one that has its influence on a broad range of issues – economic, strategic-security related, political, regionally and internationally. Israel needs the US a lot more than the US needs Israel.  The focus of this research area will be on how a progressive political agenda will strengthen the Israel-US relations and how a right-wing Israeli agenda will further jeopardize that relationship.  The research in this area will work hard to support the groups that “mediate” between the Government of Israel and the US Government, who concur with our basic agenda: that the relationship can be better, more effective and more conducive to peace, but that it requires a challenging paradigm shift.

Education

Israel’s educational system is in crisis. One problem has been a steady decline in government funding for education. National spending on education dropped from 9.3% of GDP in 2002 to 8.3% 2007. The 2008 budget included a $400 million increase for education, to $10 billion — though that’s barely enough to keep up with the economy’s growth rate. The extra money was used to increase teachers’ salaries.  Many Israelis say the education system needs a complete overhaul. Class sizes average 38 to 40 students, and the Organization for Economic Cooperation & Development says teachers’ wages in Israel are the lowest in the industrialized world, with starting educators earning just $600 per month. Higher education is equally in crisis. At Israel’s seven universities, funding has dropped 20% in four years. Even as the student population has climbed 50% since 1997, the number of teachers has remained steady at about 5,000. Israel also faces a “brain drain” with as many as 3,000 university lecturers who have fled for jobs overseas. Hundreds of professors are teaching at leading institutions abroad because Israel can’t offer them jobs.

The educational system is overburdened with the need to produce high test scores in international tests as grades have fallen consistently over the past years.  The burden of teaching for tests is that the entire educational process becomes devoid of its learning spirit. Students are not challenged to become productive, involved and engaged in the civil life of society.  They must spend a disproportionate amount of the classroom time preparing for exams.

State committees on education have focused on the economics of education and not on the heart and soul of the educational system.  Too often businesspeople devoid of any real knowledge and professional background in education have been recruited to chart a new course of education.

Israel’s educational system is disintegrating, mired in mediocrity, underachievement, and unacceptable gaps. Unlike the proposals of the Treasury or commissions of inquiry that are cut off from reality, the solution is not administrative, nor should it be solved through privatization: Neither individual contracts, nor differential salaries, nor “flexibility” in firing teachers will save our schools. Neither will shift the center of gravity to the principals at the expense of the Education Ministry, or bringing private enterprise into the schools; and certainly not promoting “relevant” subjects like marketing and advertising over the humanities. There are no magic solutions; no commission of inquiry will have a sudden breakthrough. The “cure” for our ailing schools demands resources; the process will be long and at times frustrating ? yet at once must be systematic and site-specific.

Masses of teachers proved their commitment during recent national strikes to high quality and equal education for every child. We must enable them to perform their jobs, and involve them in any and all school reforms. In order to reward those in the profession and attract the best of our young people thereto, we must offer decent salaries and a reasonable pupil-teacher ratio. The success of a given school is in its teaching staff; yet the success of education starts and ends in the home: The schools will fail if the pupils’ “launching pads” are full of holes. No child, no school, nor any community should have to begin its future on anything but a level playing field. Unfortunately, there are shameful gaps between Israel’s strong and weak schools, which perpetuate the social gaps and pass them onto the next generation.

The twenty first century demands skilled, creative, broad-minded citizens. We cannot choose ?as many today claim we should ? between transmitting knowledge and developing critical thinking: Both are vital. We need to reopen the child’s world of values, foster her critical thinking skills, and encourage her social and civic responsibility, her curiosity, and her creativity. As important as it is, job training is only one dimension of education: We need more literature, writing, art, and wonder at our world. The schools need to educate the whole person.

The financial collapse of our universities is yet another symptom of the education crisis. It is incumbent upon us to bring back the former Israeli excellence in higher education; this means subsidizing tuitions, and in cases where there is need, covering all expenses. The sciences should be required for those majoring in the humanities, and the social sciences and humanities should be required for those majoring in the natural sciences. The social questions of our times demand a public equipped with the tools to cope with the complexity of our world.

CIP’s educational research program will address the need to bring learning back into the school system.  In today’s information and digital world students need to be challenged to use information and not to memorize it.  Teachers must be a central component of any educational reform.  They are the backbone of the system and ironically, they are usually the last one’s to be asked for their input.  CIP’s program will listen to teachers, parents and students themselves in our work towrd a new educational mission and spirit in Israel.

We will address the fact that vast public funds of regular taxpayers are poured into anti-Zionist schools that don’t teach a core curriculum required by law, and needed to survive and thrive in the modern world. Public funds are being spent on schools that raise children not to participate in the workforce.

While we support the right of every citizen to learn any topic at all, including of course anything related to the Jewish heritage we all celebrate, it is the state’s responsibility to each citizen to ensure that he or she has a core education. We have to question whether or not the State should provide for religious education or if this should be conducted as an extra-curricula activity.

Jewish world/Diaspora relations

We espouse the notion that Israel is the spiritual and symbolic center of the Jewish people everywhere. In addition to the urgent need to provide equal rights and responsibilities to all citizens of the country, we believe there is a special relationship between the State and the people who look to it as the home of their forefathers and foremothers, and their extended national, cultural and religious family.

There is no political meaning to this. People who move to Israel and gain citizenship have a say in political life; others do not. We believe the relationship must be cultivated. We believe Israel must draw on the wealth of diversity, knowledge, experience and cultural richness of the Jewish people everywhere. We believe that will keep Israel cosmopolitan, indeed global.

At the same time, Israel should in fact reflect some shared vision of a Jewish society, Jewish values and ethics – as long as they are not coercively inserted into political life. Rather, this can be a natural outgrowth of strengthening the connection through communication, exchanges of youth, professionals, business, academic and cultural life.

Such activities deserve support and encouragement of the state, through resources and infrastructure. The greater the shared vision of Israel; the more dialogue there is about the Diaspora hopes, dreams and expectations for Israel, versus the reality of what Israel is – the narrower this widening gap will be. Without persuading or funneling huge funds into Israel awareness or Jewish continuity, which can too easily lead to totally divergent concepts of this country – there will be a more realistic sense of shared vision and expectations. If there is any hope for young progressives to appreciate Israel, rather than distance themselves from it, it will come from listening to them; from making Israel reflect the best of these values as well – by learning about them from the members of our global family.

Therefore, we specifically support contacts and cooperation with other progressive organizations abroad in general, and specifically Jewish progressive organizations in particular (such as J-Street, Brit Tzedek v’Shalom, APN, New Israel Fund, etc.).

  • Gender issues
    According to research undertaken by the Israel Democracy Institute and other institutions, there is no “women’s voice” in Israeli elections. In other words, Israeli women do not differ from Israeli men in their voting preferences. The variables that have proven to be most significant in determining Israeli voting patterns are degree of religiosity, ethnic origin, and age. In only one instance – in 1996, when there was a direct rather than a party election for prime minister – were voting patterns by gender noticeably different. Women showed more support in that election for Shimon Peres than for Benjamin Netanyahu and, on the party ballots, they cast more votes for Labor than for Likud.

Public opinion research in the U.S. and Western Europe reveals that women tend to demonstrate greater support than men for pacifist positions on military issues. In a militaristic society such as Israel, we might expect that women, perhaps given their traditional role as mothers, would tend to adopt more dovish stances. Surprisingly, however, an empirical analysis of public opinion surveys in Israel reveals no significant difference in the opinions of women and men on issues related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and paths towards solving it. The trend towards a more aggressive stance is characteristic of both sexes equally, though women are more active in peace movements

On issues concerning voter participation rates – no gender differences are found in research on voter participation rates in Israeli elections. Regarding party membership – fewer women than men report that they are registered members of political parties. The percentage of women who say they are active in parties is especially low (less than 1% in 1997).

Interest in politics: Israelis clearly have a high level of interest in politics. In 2005, 81% said they updated themselves on political events daily or several times a week, 71% said they were interested in politics, and 65% said they discussed political issues with friends and family members. Women, however, appear to have less interest in politics. A lower percentage of women than men report being interested in the news or speaking with family and friends about current political events.

With regards to participation in volunteer organizations In Israel, as in other countries, women are more active than men in volunteer organizations connected with education, welfare, and women’s issues. Volunteer organizations have traditionally been a “nature reserve” for women’s active involvement. They are part of the public sphere but adhere to the stereotypical image of women’s roles and do nothing to bring them closer to positions of political power.

The profile of Israeli women who participate actively in politics differs from that of women in other democracies. Elsewhere, the younger, better-educated, and wealthier the women, the greater their political involvement; in Israel, it is older, married women of lower socioeconomic status that are more politically active than their younger, single, and more affluent counterparts. As opposed to other countries, the better educated and wealthier the woman, the less likely she is to participate in politics as a citizen. Nevertheless, the demographic profile of women in top political jobs – mayors, local council members, and Knesset members, for example – is educated, wealthy, and of Ashkenazi origin.

The focus of CIP’s Gender program will be on women’s empowerment for higher participation in the entire political process, from the grassroots, to local and national government.

Political/Democracy Affairs

What should be the progressive stand on governmental reform issues?  What about electoral reforms? What should be the progressive position on “judicial activism” and its effect on relations between secular and Hareidi populations? Should the threshold be raised above 2%? How can civil society have a larger role in decision making? How do we cope with the too strong connection between wealth and government in Israel?  How do we cope with institutionalized discrimination against all kinds of minorities in Israel? Progressives in Israel must be the champion of democracy with an emphasis on citizens’ participation and issues concerning the future of Israel’s democracy must be high on its agenda.  These and other similar issues will be the focus of CIP’s program in the area.

Religious-Secular – Finding the common elements of a shared identity

The traditional left position in Israel regarding religious Jews and religion has been an anti religious one.  The recent Meretz campaign in Jerusalem spoke of “putting an end to the Hareidization of Jerusalem”. The legal structure of Israel placing all issues of personal status into the hands of the religious establishments has increased anti-religious attitudes amongst  secular Israelis.  Furthermore, the correlation between religiosity and right-wing political views creates greater cleavages in Israeli society between left and right and between religious and secular. There is and will continue to be political quarreling, tensions, and disputes over the place of religion in public life. Yet the schism between Orthodox and non-Orthodox Jews in Israel has exploded in its scope, with little real connection to the essence of Jewish religion. Rather, political interests have co-opted the right to speak on behalf the various populations. Many of the disputes can be shifted to the political and public arena, and ultimately rulings can and should be reached. Yet the discourse must not deteriorate into a wrestling match: Sensibilities can be calmed in order to conduct an alternative discourse among societal factions. We shall seek policy proposals that enable more tolerance and respect for conflicting beliefs and practices, and a more thorough implementation of civil society across the spectrum of the Israeli population.

CIP’s agenda in this area will focus on the principle that every Jewish community in Israel has the right to express its Jewishness as it wishes. Every human being has the right to choose the way the he or she marries, divorces or is buried. These life cycle events are life’s most intimate moments, and people must be free to hold rituals and ceremonies according to their beliefs.

CIP will explore ways to develop political policies that do not automatically alienate religious Jewish Israelis from adopting an agenda based on shared national and civic values. There is nothing anti-religious about this.  About half of Israeli Jews do not classify themselves as “secular”, and close to half do – but the Jewish traditions, religious values, particularly regarding the family and religious-like traditions concerning holiday celebration and Shabbat and especially the holy days are vitally important and reflect a very strong consensus among Jewish Israelis.  A sense of connectivity to the historic Land of Israel because of Jewish heritage is also common for most Israeli Jews.  The alienation of the secular left in Israel can be blamed largely on its image of being not only against religion in politics, but for the fact that it has appeared to many simply anti-Jewish. Many mainstream Israelis who identify fully with the social agenda of Meretz, feel angry and betrayed by what they view as a desire to give up on the Jewish character of the state. Progressive values means searching for the right role of our religious, cultural and spiritual heritage – not to ignore it or deny it, rather to reformulate its place in the shared public space.

On the issue of religion and state we will consider that the recent eruption of tensions between Hareidi communities in Jerusalem and secular Israelis is the tip of an iceberg of years of failure in bridging gaps of perceptions and political will.

CIP will consider the option that religion and politics cannot be reconciled. We all agree on the need for a nation state of the Jewish people; but beyond some state-protected cultural aspects, the mix of religion and politics has poisoned the debate; oppressed individual citizens, and led to total inequality of distribution of resources and responsibilities. Further, the laissez faire status-quo arrangements with the Haredi community is serving to perpetuate grave problems and sets a precedent for other segments opting out of the rule of law (receiving State funds without implementing core curricula in schools as an example).

We will propose a no-nonsense approach that is unsentimental either for or against religion. We do so with love and respect for our Jewish heritage; we do so to preserve that heritage and remove the stain of political corruption that drives so many citizens and young people away.

CIP will develop proposals that will focus on the prospects for separation of religion and state in Israel. This research will look at the possibility that there will be no religious parties – that is, parties cannot run on a religious agenda. The Knesset will not legislate on any religious affairs. There will be no state support for religious institutions of any kind. The state will not continue to have complete authority over issues like marriage, divorce and burial. Religious ceremonies through the rabbinate will be entirely the citizens’ choice; in fact, the research agenda will raise questions regarding the continuation of the State-funded Rabbinate establishment.

Jewish-Islamic Dialogue and Search for a Celebration of Diversities in the State of Israel

Jerusalem provides the opportunity of a laboratory for creating the one place in the world where there can actually be a physical territorial expression of a celebration of the diversity of civilizations.  Jewish-Islamic dialogue is a real challenge anywhere in  the world.  In the Holy Land that challenge is compounded by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and in Jerusalem even more so by the proximity of the Holy sites to each other (sometimes even overlapping).  Nonetheless, a progressive agenda in Israel would not be complete without addressing the need for a new discourse between Jews and Muslims which has global repercussions and importance.  Therefore, this issue will also be included on the agenda of CIP.

Global Issues

What positions should the State of Israel take on global issues that do not directly impact on Israel? Should the State of Israel have diplomatic relations with Myanmar? Should we be concerned with the rights of Muslims in China?  What should we say and do about Tibet? How should Israel respond in cases of natural disasters in far away places?  The research of CIP in this area will aim to define a progressive response

based on the Jewish value of tikkun olam  (repairing the world or healing the world).

A progressive agenda insists that the Jewish experience of the 20th century is not unique. Where there is hatred against one group, there will be hatred against others. Where there is killing of one group, as we have tragically witnessed at the end of the 20th century, and in the start to the 21st, there will be more.

As Israelis and Jews, it is our moral imperative to fight injustice beyond our borders; protect the oppressed and share any wealth we have at this time. We cannot wait for other things to happen before sharing the resources we currently have: talent, ingenuity, energy – and tragically, Israeli great understanding of how to cope with survival threats – and survive.

Immigrant integration

Why did a majority of immigrants from the former Soviet Union vote for the right and for parties such as Yisrael Beitenu?  The answer is surely not only because the party leader, Mr. Lieberman speaks their language.  The influence on Israeli society, politics, culture and economy of the one million plus immigrants from the former Soviet Union is quite significant.  That influence will continue to be on the rise. The old left has written that population off. They seem to be beyond the reach of the progressive agenda.  Too often the simplistic answer that they reject the left because of their memories of communism make life too easy and remove the need to face the challenge of gaining their support.  This is a population group that the progressive forces cannot afford to lose. The new progressive political force must face the question of how to integrate these new immigrants into the progressive agenda and ranks.  This is a challenge with immediate potential results which are crucial for progressives to re-emerge as a governing force in Israel.

Settler Reintegration

In the last Knesset, legislation was tabled (but did not progress) to offer settlers who were interested in coming back home to the pre-1967 borders of the State of Israel fair compensation for their homes and businesses, even prior to a peace deal with the Palestinians. Eventually, when a peace deal is reached with the Palestinians, thousands of Israeli settlers in the West Bank will have to move homes.  Many of them, perhaps even most, will choose to live in areas of the West Bank that will be annexed to the State of Israel.  Others will choose to come back to Israel inside of the Green Line.  The perpetuation of the conflict and the emphasis that has been placed on the crucial role that the settlements have played in being an obstacle to peace along with the general animosity that already exists and has been exacerbated along religious – secular lines have created cleavages between parts of Israeli society that today seem unbridgeable.

There is no illusion that once there is an agreement with the Palestinians, settlers will cross political lines and join the progressive ranks. There is, however, a need to project into the future and to understand that progressives will have to play a positive role in reintegrating settlers back into Israeli society in a post-conflict era. The settlers and the settlement enterprise generated a huge amount of positive energy (used in negative ways) to build the Land and the State of Israel.  They are a group of dedicated, intelligent, principled people who are part and parcel of the fabric of Israeli society.

The progressives need to begin to think about how to address the current settler ideology productively, and, in the future, a process for re-integration. This will be the research agenda for CIP in this area.

The disaffected and apathy in Israeli society

Thirty-five percent of all potential voters did not cast their vote in the last elections. Fifty percent of the Palestinian-Israelis eligible to vote did not vote in the last elections. Israeli democracy is in crisis. Voting rates in national elections are steadily dropping, undermining the legitimacy of those elected to office and their decisions. Even worse, they testify to the loss of faith of Israel’s citizens in their capacity to influence the system or public life in general. The prevailing assumption is that it’s not worth participating in elections because the country’s leaders are concerned only with themselves and their cronies, because politics are tainted by built-in corruption, and because in any case, the individual citizen lacks the capacity to shape her or his own future.

Citizens do not have power to decide on matters of war and peace, or the allocation of the national budget, just as no one asks their opinion about the construction of a skyscraper on their street, or on the closing of a nearby beach. Israelis’ alienation and apathy toward the system, their civic outlook, and the growing alienation and shift towards an individualistic ethos constitutes an existential threat to Israeli democracy. Steering clear of the ballot box, like avoiding general public involvement, leaves Israel’s political process alien to its citizens, their concerns, and their needs. The way to revive Israeli democracy is by nurturing the citizenry and empowering it. The Israeli citizen needs to be a partner ? either directly or via their representatives ? in the processes and institutions that shape life in this country. There is no reason why such processes take place behind closed doors where the voice of public interests is not heard, and where information remains concealed. Public involvement must be increased in urban planning, the drafting of national master plans, support for cultural institutions, education, communication, and sports. Democracy must be transformed from a formal process to one that is substantial, open, and engaging. Instead of the public being perceived as the enemy, it and its representatives must be partners in the choosing of our path, initiatives, and visions.

The progressives must lead the way for increasing public involvement and engagement in the democratic process.  Public participation is the key value that must be expressed in the progressive agenda.  The progressives in Israel have a “tradition” of blaming the public or demonstrating scorn for the public’s opinion or shallow understanding of issues.  The impact on this attitude has been one of the contributing factors to the ongoing weakening of progressive power and influence.

CIP’s agenda on this issue will be to identify means for engaging and exciting the disaffected and apathetic in Israeli society to adopt progressive agendas and positions because the new progressives will demonstrate a sincere concern for the welfare of the citizens and a true desire to hear their voices and incorporate their involvement into citizens’ decision making processes.

How we work

Through dialogue with leaders, thinkers, researchers, journalists, and citizens, we explore the vital issues facing Israel. We develop points of view and take a stand. We then build on that and develop bold new ideas. We will shape the national debate. We will share our point of view with everyone who can put our ideas into practice and effect positive change. That means online, on campus, in the media, on the shop floor, in faith communities, and in the boardroom.  CIP will rapidly become a leading public policy institute that invests in new thinkers and new progressive ideas to address the challenges facing the State of Israel today and tomorrow. CIP will engage in a wealth of activities – in-house aimed at creating the new narrative for a new progressive force in Israel, and out-reach to the public all over the country.  CIP will help to shape the agenda of the country and will aim to have real influence in changing the political map of Israel.

Program Activities
Media presence

We cannot forget the ongoing impact of regular, traditional media: television, print, radio, film. It will be a top priority to begin getting progressive messages, data and ideas into the mainstream media and into the heads of mainstream opinion formers. This will mean:

  • Press conferences/briefings
  • Individual meetings with opinion formers
  • Meetings with political and civil society leaders
  • Meetings with education professionals (schools and higher ed. Institutions)
  • Cultivating documentary filmmakers, perhaps generating grant programs, to deal with top issues
  • Conceiving and catalyzing cultural and artistic constellations who express progressive values and view-points—in plastic and performance media
Political agenda

CIP will look at both of the following:

  • Building, revamping, strengthening existing political parties to be cleaner, more democratic, more accountable to citizens and more reflective of their needs
  • While also laying the groundwork for a new model of party in Israel, one based on grassroots; social issues at the fore rather than celebrities; substance over style.
Monthly Polling

Polling is an important aspect of the work of any think-tank.  Polling is a way to get issues into the public debate.  The media has great interest in polls and polls that are designed to highlight issues will be a crucial aspect of the work of CIP.  While it is the task of leaders to shape public opinion and not to follow it, a political think-tank must be able to track public opinion to know how to respond to the issues that are of high concern to the public.  CIP will have an active polling program with an in-house pollster designing the research polls and focus groups in full cooperation with the Directors of policy and research of CIP along with the rest of the research staff.

Panels and Brainstorms

The CIP staff will organize on regular and frequent basis panel discussions (where thinkers will make presentation of new ideas to a select audience) and brainstorming sessions within their research program agenda to bring in thinkers and participants from outside of the center.  One of the most important tasks of the new progressive force right now must be to listen.  CIP will be to seek out people from all sectors of the society, from all geographic areas, from all social economic groups, religious, traditional and secular Jews, immigrants and Palestinian Arab citizens.  In order to rebuild progressive forces in Israel as a major political force, as an alternative for the ruling political parties, it is essential to have a better understanding of what is really important to ordinary citizens.  CIP will seek out their voices and hear their concerns and try to enable their political voices to be expressed in relation to social and environmental justice, peace with our neighbors, political efficacy, clean government, etc.  CIP panels and brainstorming sessions will be dedicated to developing the “new language” and a progressive narrative to test those messages amongst different audiences.  This information/data will be of great use in the development of policy papers and policy agendas.  The brainstorms and panels will interact directly with the polling department of CIP.

Roundtable Program

The CIP roundtable program will be one aspect of the public face of the center.  During the first year of CIP’s work, one roundtable event will be held each week.  Each program area of the center will be responsible for organizing and running the roundtable program.  The aim of the roundtable program is to trigger public debate towards shaping the public-political discourse in the country.  These programs will be open to the public and the Public Relations department of CIP will be in charge of using this opportunity to develop a constructive relationship with the media.  The Roundtable program will aim to be provocative, forward and progressive, challenging the government and the ideology of the right wing with a new alternative agenda and discourse.

Young Researchers Program

It is essential to bring in a new generation of thinkers to the progressive dialogue.  CIP’s Young Researchers Program will recruit a minimum of 20 graduate students from Israel’s universities and colleges to join the research team on specific projects.  The Young Researchers will be guided by the Lead Researchers and by the Associate Researchers. The papers produced by the Young Researchers will become a unique and dynamic publication series of CIP, in hard copy and online.

Bi-Weekly Briefings for Legislative assistants, ministerial advisors and activists

The legislative assistants of Members of Knesset have considerable influence in directing the attention of the MK to issues, ideas, and sources of information. These assistants, along with political advisors to Ministers and other activists from various political parties will be invited to attend policy briefings with distinguished fellows and officers of CIP.

Publications

CIP publications will include the following:

  • Research area reports
  • Polling/public opinion reports
  • “Progressive Approaches” a monthly critique of the Israeli Government
  • Alternative Legislation – proposals from CIP on a progressive agenda for legislation
  • Op-ed collections – monthly publication of op-ed pieces authored and published by CIP researchers and board members
  • International press. Much in the same way J-street has gained attention in America and internationally and helped reshape consciousness of American Jewish thinking about Israel, we believe that international outreach will open up a new window for the world, to a serious and committed trend in Israeli society. That can help draw support, and also as a side benefit, counter some of the alienation many Diaspora Jews are feeling towards Israel.
The Web site and Blogs

The CIP website will be the life-blood of the organization.  Dynamic, aggressive, proactive, engaging – these are the code words that will guide the webmaster and the CIP staff. The voice of CIP to the world is an essential tool in the 21st century.  The CIP web site will contain written, video and audio content. All publication, lectures, roundtables and CIP events will be covered on the site. CIP researchers and staff will be encouraged to have their own CIP blogs linked on the site. Interaction with the public is the guiding principle of the CIP website.

  • “WIKI – CIP” – Participatory citizens based public policy development – the “Wikipedia” of public policy design – through this revolutionary web site, WIKI-CIP will enable citizens all across the country, from all walks of life, to join in the process of design public policy papers and legislative initiatives. Citizen participation is the most basic fundamental of a progressive agenda.  Policy development and legislative initiatives must be made accessible to ordinary citizens who care about what is happening in the country.  WIKI-CIP will reach out to citizens to join the process of setting the progressive agenda and gaining direct influence on the issues that shape their lives.  WIKI-CIP will bring new passion and expressions of real partnership both in CIP itself, but more importantly, in playing a positive role in the development of the country.
  • Interactive new media outreach. Chat forums, viral emailing, coordination with grassroots campaigns such as any future “moveon.il” type projects.
Annual Board Event – Annual Policy Conference

This will be the main public event of the year engaging leaders, public personalities, key thinkers, CIP research staff and others.  The public event will have sessions on all of the fields of CIP’s agenda and will aim at a public engagement “blitz” at the media and the public.  The event will be broadcast live on the internet.  This will be a progressive answer to the neo-conservative Herzliyah Conference.

Mass outreach

Town hall meetings, ongoing forums of regular citizens in many creative formats, from all sectors of society, to meet, air thoughts, ideas, and integrate them into policy and ideological discussions.

Why we need a change….. and quickly!

One day of Headlines in Israel (August 13, 2009, Haaretz and YNet)

Livni: Israelis desperate to leave country
Opposition chairman says hundreds of thousands of Israelis searching or ways to move abroad in light of grim political situation in country, government’s lack of vision 

Israel toughens entry for foreigners with West Bank ties 
Border officials begin restricting movements of West Bank visitors to ‘the Palestinian Authority only.’

Petah Tikva Orthodox schools refuse Ethiopian students 
At least 100 students of Ethiopian origin do not know what school they will be attending this year.

Brigade commander questioned over IDF abuse affair
Army steps up investigation of acts of humiliation against young soldiers as part of ‘induction ceremonies’

Israel shuts door on Turkish-mediated Syria talks
Deputy Foreign Minister Ayalon tells Reuters proximity talks with Syria through Turkish mediation failed ‘because of Syrian intransigence’ 

Ethiopians threaten Egged boycott after incident with driver

Several dozen protesters from the Ethiopian community demonstrated yesterday opposite the Egged bus company at the Tel Aviv central bus station following allegations that an Egged driver tried to bar a college student from boarding his bus in Rishon Letzion because of her Ethiopian origin last week. He also allegedly directed racist insults at her when she managed to board the bus on her way to school.

Parents in Galilee town sue to get kids secular education

The parents of 13 secular seventh- and eighth-graders from Shlomi petitioned the Haifa District Court last week to demand that the students be transferred from the northern town’s mixed secular-religious junior high school.

Israeli arms dealers join Lieberman’s entourage to Africa

Avigdor Lieberman would perhaps not be happy to hear that he was following in Golda Meir’s footsteps, but the fact is that, like Israel’s foreign minister in the 1950s and 1960s, the current foreign minister is very interested in Africa and in restoring Israel’s status there. “To my regret, Israel has for many years been absent from two continents – America and Africa – and does not have a sufficient presence there,” he told Haaretz this week, shortly after returning from a long trip to South America during which he visited Brazil, Argentina, Peru and Colombia.

Palestinian teen fulfills dream to see sea
Fifteen-year-old Ahmad Najjar finally makes it through military’s red tape; joins Machsom Watch summer camp on visit to Bat Yam’s Sela Beach

Rabbi Aviner: Non-Jews shouldn’t serve in IDF
Following resignation of Druze officer Brigadier-General Imad Fares over traffic accident scandal, prominent Religious Zionism rules, ‘Maimonides said explicitly – only Jews in the IDF.’ Druze are loyal soldiers, he adds, but should do national service instead

Jerusalem: Haredim bring segregation to the street
Group of Neturei Karta activists tour capital’s ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods on Friday, call on men and women to use separate sidewalks

Religious public: Media not patriotic enough
Survey reveals national-religious public feels it is insufficiently represented in Israeli media, which respondents perceive as biased against it

What is a Progressive Agenda?

Citizen-focused participatory democracy where participation and engagement is desired, sought after and developed in the system of governance.

A state which honors the role of religion and religious communities but removes religion from politics and politics from religion.

An Israel which sees all citizens as equal partners, all having a stake in the present and the future.

An economy that strives for the fairest distribution of resources and opportunities, works on reducing gaps, encouraging private initiative and entrepreneurship while focusing on the values of reducing wasteful consumerism and wanton materialism.

A society in which gaps between rich and poor are small and poverty does not exist because of citizen caring and responsibility, and government policies that provide real social nets. Thirty years ago Israel was one of the most egalitarian societies in the world.  Today Israel is number two in the world in the growing of the gap between the have’s and the have-not’s.

A society that cherishes its natural resources, nature, environment, public land and open spaces and understands that our daily health and wellbeing depend upon them, and that we are guardians of these resources for future generations.

Recognition that Israel’s real security needs are not an alibi for not pursuing peace with our neighbors. Israel is part of the international community and the international community can provide great support for resolving Israel’s security needs.

A demilitarization Israeli society and culture or, in other words, a “citizenization” of society—according honor and stature for contributions to civil society, fostering development and the allocation of resources to education, health, welfare, science, arts, literature, music, cinema, etc.  The high rank of a soldier, or military prowess are not appropriate qualifications for government or political stations, nor are male-gendered hierarchical structures appropriate models for civilian institutions.

The advancement of women in politics and in all parts of society, including real guarantees for equal pay for equal jobs – if needed by legal quotas and standards until there is no need.

A society where bilingualism (Hebrew and Arabic) is a value and advanced through the educational system.

An educational system that cherishes its teachers and educators and engages them creatively in the flourishing and advancement of Israeli society.

Leading Israeli Think Tanks – Where is CIP’s Market and Value-Added?

The following is a list of the leading Israeli think-tanks.  There is no Israeli think-tank which identifies itself or its mission as defining a new progressive agenda for Israel.  Of all of the existing think-tanks the closest one in terms of world view and perspective to what the Center for Israeli Progress hopes to achieve is the Adva Center.  Many of Adva’s researchers would find an additional home under CIP’s roof. The main difference between Adva and CIP is in the comprehensive agenda of CIP, whereas Adva is mainly focused on economic and social policies. CIP’s stated agenda is the rebuilding a progressive political force in Israel and not mainly focused on improving current government decisions and policies.

Center, Center-Left, Center-Right

  • INSS -The Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) (Director: Amb. Oded Eran)
  • The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (Director: Amb. Dore Gold)
  • Reut (Director Gidi Grinstein)
  • Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies (Director: Prof. Yaacov Bar Siman Tov)

Right

  • Institute for Policy and Strategy of the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya  (Out going Director Dr. Uzi Arad)
  • Shalem Center – This is the main leading think-tank of the new right in Israel, founded with the direct involvement of Prime Minister Netanyahu

Peace Focus

  • ECF – Economic Cooperation Foundation (Director: Prof. Yair Hirschfeld)

Non-political

  • The Van Leer Jerusalem Institute is a leading intellectual center for the interdisciplinary study and discussion of issues related to philosophy, society, culture and education. (Director: Prof. Gabriel Motzkin)
  • Israel Democracy Institute – (Director Dr. Arik Karmon)

Social/Economic Left

  • Adva Center is a non-partisan, action-oriented Israeli policy analysis center. It was founded in 1991 by activists from three social movements: the movement for equality for Mizrahi Jews, the feminist movement, and the movement for equal rights for Arab citizens. (Director: Barbara Swirski)
Gershon Baskin – CIP’s Initiator, Founder and Executive Director

Dr. Baskin has been a peace activist and a progressive thinker and doer his whole life. Starting in the US as a child activist against the war in Vietnam and fighting for civil rights, Gershon was inspired by Senator Eugene McCarthy and Congressman Allard Lowenstein who he had the privilege to meet and work with as a young activist.  As a teen he became an activist in Young Judea, the Zionist Youth Movement of Hadassah and rose to leadership positions in the movement.  Baskin immigrated to Israel at the age of 22 and went to live and volunteer for two years in Kafr Qara – a Palestinian village inside of Israel.  After completing his “service” there working in education and youth empowerment, he proposed and created a position in the Israeli government as the first civil servant responsible for advancing relations between Jewish and Palestinian Israelis.  In that capacity he helped to create the Department for Education for Democracy and Coexistence in the Ministry of Education.  From the Ministry of Education he founded and later directed the Institute for Education for Jewish Arab Coexistence that was supported by the Prime Minister’s office and the Ministry of Education. During that time he helped to introduce education for coexistence into the National College for the Training of Officers (Har Gilo) and later served in the IDF’s Education Corp in Har Gilo in regular duty and for 15 years of reserve duty.

After the emergence of the first Palestinian intifada, Baskin founded IPCRI – the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information which he has been co-directing for the past 21 years.  Under his leadership IPCRI has moved from being a fringe NGO to becoming one of the leading think tanks in the region[2].  During all of these years, he continued to be an activist in many non-parliamentary movements.  Baskin is an accomplished and prize winning journalist with a regular column in the Jerusalem Post called “Encountering Peace”.  He lectures around the world at conferences on Middle East issues and Israel center focused issues.  He is often thought to be a “radical” thinker in that his approach questions “common wisdom” and “sacred cows”.  Baskin’s approach to the issues cuts across Israeli society, Jewish and Arab, European and Eastern Israeli populations. He has been trained as a “listener” and a thinker and his background and experiences help to make him the “right person at the right time” to undertake this work.

Dahlia Scheindlin – Co-Founder

Dahlia Scheindlin is an international political consultant and public opinion analyst based in Tel Aviv, where she moved from New York City in 1997; at present she is one of the country’s leading pollsters and political analysts associated with progressive causes and peace/conflict research. In addition, she has developed research-based strategy for political, social, and corporate campaigns in more than a dozen countries. The comparative knowledge thus gained is applied to each new project; effectively drawing upon cross-cultural public opinion trends to provide deep understanding of any particular situation.

In 1999, Ms. Scheindlin joined the campaign team for Ehud Barak and was subsequently hired by Stanley Greenberg as the Israel-based senior analyst for his Washington, D.C. based firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research (GQRR). In that context, she conducted extensive public opinion research surrounding the ongoing peace negotiations, beginning with the Israel-Syria negotiations in January 2000 through to  the Camp David negotiations (July 2000), during which the results were sent directly to the prime minister on a daily basis during the talks. Research continued through the collapse of the talks and the onset of the al-Aqsa Intifada to the 2001 special elections for prime minister, for which she headed the Greenberg team directing research and strategy for Prime Minister Barak.

From 1999 to 2002 Ms. Scheindlin was also responsible for developing and executing public opinion research programs in other countries through GQRR, including the 2000 presidential election in the U.S., for Al Gore; and national campaigns in Zanzibar, Austria, and Italy. After leaving GQRR in 2002, she continued to collaborate with the firm as an independent consultant, and became the director of all public opinion research and strategy for international clients for its sister company, GCS (2002–present). Through GCS, she has conducted research and advised strategy for national campaigns in Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria, Poland, and Serbia, as well as local elections in Bucharest, Kiev, Vienna, and various Israel localities. Her most recent project was research and strategy development for the Bulgarian Socialist Party and direct strategic advising and consultation for Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev (EP and national elections, June and July 2009). In Israel, she has conducted research and developed strategy for four national election campaigns, most recently as the pollster for the left-wing party Meretz, in the 2009 elections.

Ms. Scheindlin has a particular interest in international conflict situations, focusing on the importance of understanding and working with public opinion as a vital factor in conflict resolution. In Israel, she has been contracted by diverse clients including quasi-governmental organizations, peace NGOs and private individuals, to conduct ongoing research among Israelis and occasionally among Palestinians regarding popular campaigns, and civil society projects, often (but not exclusively) related to peace activities. In April 2008, she conducted a series of qualitative and quantitative studies related to final status issues and Jerusalem, data that she presented to President Jimmy Carter during his Middle East tour as part of a public opinion analysis briefing.

Her interest in conflict and international issues goes well beyond Israel: in 2004, Ms. Scheindlin was asked to conduct a last-minute qualitative public opinion study in support of the ill-fated “Yes” campaign for the 2004 Cyprus referendum on the Annan Plan for unification prior to EU accession. Following the failure of the referendum in Greek Cyprus, she conducted a post-referendum media analysis commissioned by USAID in collaboration with an international consortium of referendum experts called Politicks. In late 2006, she began working for the Democratic Party (DS) in Serbia (through GCS), personally developing all public opinion research and strategy for the parliamentary elections (2007); and working directly with President Boris Tadic in his winning reelection campaign in February 2008. The overriding issue in both campaigns was the status of Kosovo in voters’ minds, which dominated the political discourse and agenda; research was focused almost exclusively on the Hague Tribunal, Serbia’s relations with the EU, the Ahtisaari Plan, the Troika, the UN recommendations of December 10, 2007, and the then-imminent independence of Kosovo. She has dealt with EU issues, managing public relations and public opinion projects for Romania and Hungary prior to their accession in 2005.

In addition, she has conducted strategic public opinion research for other national-scale public affairs projects, such as a four-year communications project for the 2004 Olympics Athens Organizing Committee (through GQRR). Other activities include local political races, ongoing research and strategy for incumbents, and social issue campaigns. She has conducted open-source research (not public opinion) related to immigration and minority issues in Israel and abroad, for policy institutions and NGOs such as the Joint Distribution Committee. These studies involved in-depth comparative research of immigration and integration policy and best practices assessments. She is currently a researcher at the Israel Democracy Institute, studying political reform in Israel and religious/secular identity.

Ms. Scheindlin is currently a doctoral candidate in political science at Tel Aviv University, focusing on comparative politics. Her research area is unrecognized (or de facto) states and specifically the symbolic aspects of nation- and state-building in a non-state, usually protracted ethnic conflict, setting.

She is a regular columnist for the bi-weekly magazine The Jerusalem Report in which she conducts a short, original survey on a topical current issue, and provides an original analysis of public opinion on the topic. She is a commentator on television and radio and gives frequent lectures for various forums.

Ms. Scheindlin received her B.A. at McGill University (First Class Honors) in 1994 and holds a master’s degree from Harvard Divinity School in comparative religion (1997), where she focused on international conflict; the degree included studies in negotiations and conflict resolution through the Harvard Psychology Department, the Kennedy School of Government, and the Fletcher School. A native of Montreal, Canada, Ms. Scheindlin holds Canadian, American and Israeli citizenship.


[1] War and Peace Index – December 2008, Prof. Ephraim Yaar and Prof. Tamar Hermann, Tel Aviv University

[2] http://www.fpri.org/research/thinktanks/mcgann.globalgotothinktanks.pdf

Gershon Baskin

Gershon Baskin

Gershon Baskin is one of the most recognizable names in the Middle East Peace process. His dedication to creating a culture of peace and environmental awareness, coupled with his impeccable integrity, has earned him the trust of the leaders of all sides of the century old conflict. Few people have such far-reaching and positive impacts on promoting peace, security, prosperity and bi-national relationships.
Gershon is an advisor to Israeli, Palestinian and International Prime Ministers on the Middle East Peace Process and the founder and director of IPCRI, the Israeli-Palestinian Public Policy Institute. He was the initiator and negotiator of the secret back channel between Israel and Hamas for the release of 1,027 prisoners – mainly Palestinians and Arab-Israelis of which 280 were sentenced to life in prison for planning and perpetrating various attacks against Jewish targets that resulted in the killing of 569 Israelis in exchange for one Israeli soldier, Gilad Schalit. Gershon is actively involved in research and advocacy concerning topics such as social policy, environmental security, political strategy, peace education, economics, culture and in the development of affordable solar projects with the goal of providing clean electricity for 50 million people by 2020.
Gershon Baskin

Latest posts by Gershon Baskin (see all)

About Gershon Baskin

Gershon Baskin is one of the most recognizable names in the Middle East Peace process. His dedication to creating a culture of peace and environmental awareness, coupled with his impeccable integrity, has earned him the trust of the leaders of all sides of the century old conflict. Few people have such far-reaching and positive impacts on promoting peace, security, prosperity and bi-national relationships. Gershon is an advisor to Israeli, Palestinian and International Prime Ministers on the Middle East Peace Process and the founder and director of IPCRI, the Israeli-Palestinian Public Policy Institute. He was the initiator and negotiator of the secret back channel between Israel and Hamas for the release of 1,027 prisoners – mainly Palestinians and Arab-Israelis of which 280 were sentenced to life in prison for planning and perpetrating various attacks against Jewish targets that resulted in the killing of 569 Israelis in exchange for one Israeli soldier, Gilad Schalit. Gershon is actively involved in research and advocacy concerning topics such as social policy, environmental security, political strategy, peace education, economics, culture and in the development of affordable solar projects with the goal of providing clean electricity for 50 million people by 2020.