The Future is Now: Democracy in Israel

Words of Greeting: Gesandte Mag. Martina Schubert, Vice-Director, Vienna School of International Studies and Drin Eleonore Lappin-Eppel, Chairperson of the Friends of the New Israel Fund Austria

Greeting and Moderation: Mitchell G. Ash, Professor Emeritus of Modern History, University of Vienna and President of the Center for Israel Studies Vienna

The panelists:

Natan Sznaider, Professor Emeritus of Sociology, Academic College of Tel Aviv-Yaffo, School of Politics and Society, currently Senior Fellow at the International Research Center for Cultural Studies, Vienna, author most recently of Fluchtpunkte der Erinnerung (2022)

Orly Noy, Chair of the Executive Board, B’tzelem, Jerusalem, activist and widely published author, most recently of „Do Israeli Protesters Really Want Democracy?“ (March 27, 2023)

Sagi Barmak, Director of the Adam Smith Center for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics and Economics, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, author of commentaries on contemporary Israeli politics, most recently: “Israeli Parliamentarism has Lost,” Makor Rishon (27 March 2023)

Although Israel lacks a written constitution, its democracy is maintained through balanced institutions. The reform of the Judiciary proposed by the current coalition government aims to shift the balance in favor of the Parliament (the Knesset), which will be able to appoint judges to the Supreme Court and also to nullify its rulings by simple majority vote. This move and other proposals of the coalition have led to protests by hundreds of thousands of people who view it as a threat to minority rights and the rule of law, and thus to Israeli democracy itself.

The panel will address the social and political background of the crisis and the contested meaning of "democracy" in Israel. Do the protests signal the end of the political dominance of a secular Israel and the rise of a religious majority? What it is that the protesters are – and should be – defending? Are the protests a chance to clarify what democracy in Israel actually means?