Diaspora Jews understand that Israel sits in a dangerous and hostile environment, and that at times, this makes the use of military force necessary. However, they are not convinced that Israel is doing everything in its power to avoid future conflicts. Still, with respect to wartime conduct, it seems that most Jews accept Israel’s claim that it makes a significant and sincere effort to uphold moral values and avoid civilian casualties. (Seminar participants complained bitterly that Israel does not manage to get this message out to the world, and attacked Israeli hasbara as unprofessional and insufficient.)
Israel’s wars in the past few decades, conducted under asymmetrical circumstances, against armed groups and organizations, as opposed to armies and states, raise fundamental questions for Jews and make it harder to identify with Israel, especially for young liberals.
This causes a growing difficulty within the Jewish world to explain Israel’s actions (due to the complexity of factors leading to war). It also diminishes the tendency to identify themselves as pro-Israel in their own environment (due to the way Israel is perceived, and the vitriolic criticism leveled at Israel). This situation requires a concerted, ongoing effort to explain Israel’s positions, its goals during conflicts, and the reasons for its wars. Most Jews neither expect nor want Israel to involve them in the detailed decisions integral to security policy. However, they have high expectations that Israel continue to uphold a high moral standard at war.
In last year’s Annual Assessment, we emphasized the importance of an Israel-Diaspora dialogue mechanism. This year’s Dialogue process, focusing on a specific and urgent question, reaffirmed its importance. The continuation of in-depth dialogue, focusing specifically on issues likely to pose difficulties in relations between the communities, is a main recommendation that derives from this process. This Dialogue should be conducted according to the following principles:
- The Dialogue must be a bilateral process in which Israel listens to Diaspora Jews, with the intention of taking their opinions into consideration. It cannot serve solely as a tool to rally world Jewry around Israeli goals (even though this is a legitimate component).
- The Dialogue should be conducted with Diaspora Jews who represent their communities. The possible decline of the centrality of major Diaspora organizations necessitates a process that does not exclusively involve organizational leaders, but includes young leaders who operate outside the main traditional institutional frameworks. They represent a new generation of Jews with more critical opinions of, and skepticism toward, Israel – much more so than their parents’ generation.
- The Dialogue needs to be an ongoing and set process. It is important to make sure it is not limited to times of crisis.