In Israel Democracy Roars

In Israel Democracy Roars

May 5, 1999 - The New York Times

As Israeli national elections approach, passions rise and the sounds of democracy can be deafening.

With deeply held convictions, dozens of parties and an uninhibited press, Israelis are debating and deciding on the issues of lasting national importance: the safest path to peace with the country's neighbors, economic and social policy, the complex relations among varying strains of Jewish religious observance between Arab and Jew.

But some issues in Israel, by overwhelming popular consensus, are beyond debate:

that Israelis and Palestinians must, and will, settle their remaining difference face to face at the bargaining table not in the streets, and not as pieces in an international chess game played by other states;

that Israel, a society enriched by immigrants from every corner of the earth, will endure as the safe haven and inspiration of the Jewish people;

that Israel will always strive to be a light unto the nations, coming to the aid of other peoples in the need from East Africa to the Balkans;

that the rule of law will prevail and the Israeli judiciary, a model of fairness and integrity, will remain respected, independent and strong;

that Jerusalem, the capital of Israel since its founding the capital of the Jewish people for 3,000 years, will remain united under Israeli sovereignty and forever open to people of every faith and land.

The Israel electoral process is as spirited as it is inspiring to all who yearn to see democratic values take root across the Middle East, a region held back by strongman politics, rigged elections and mystery successions.

And when the votes are counted, as in every election in the reborn state's 51-year history, Israelis will not only have chosen a government but reaffirmed a proud tradition of democracy, freedom and the rule of law. It is a tradition as strong as the mutual affection and strategic partnership between Israel and America, and as enduring as the bond between Israel and the Jewish people.

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