STATE BUILDING: Israeli Experiences

Israel’s lawmaker Michael Oren, member of Knesset, discusses the painful process of state building in different parts of the world

Aug. 28, 2015, 5:45 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: Vol.: 09, No. -5, August 28 2015 (Bhadra 11, 2072)

At a time when Nepal has been witnessing a long debate over writing the new constitution through Constituent Assembly, Israel’s member of Knesset Dr. Michael Oren has shared how Israel successfully built a strong, vibrant and democratic nation in the entire middle east Arab region without a written constitution.

Serving as Israeli ambassador to Untied States, 2009-2013, professor of history at Harvard, Yale, Georgetown and Ben-Gurion Universities, legislator Dr. Oren has extensive and wide ranging knowledge of state building.

At an interaction organized by Nepal Democracy Foundation (NDF), Dr. Oren addressed an audience in Kathmandu on the Journey of State Building: Israeli Experience.

The event was conducted by Jaya Nishant of  NDF, where ambassador  of Israel to Nepal Yaron Mayer and DCM Yehonathan Lebel  were also present.

Attended by members of Constituent Assembly, former diplomats, journalists and people from various walks of life, Dr. Oren said that institution making is the most important aspect of state building. “ Israel’s democracy is stable all the time, be it in war or peace. However, the history is not the same with other Arab neighbors where most of the states are run by particular clan, not by institutions,” said Dr. Oren. “Strength of Israeli democracy is its vibrant institutions.”

Although Israel is a Jewish State , the country has various religious and ethnic groups.  “Israel has Arab minorities with Muslim religion, Christian and Bahais living side by side with Jews,” said Dr. Oren.

Nepal’s experiences have shown that a written constitution alone does not guarantee functional democracy and Israel’s experiences have shown that the country’s democracy can flourish even without the constitution. 

“State building is a complicated and difficult process. Take example of  Arab countries, states collapsed once the ruler dethroned. Iraq, Syria and Libiya are nowhere in picture following the dethroned rulers,” said Dr. Oren. "As most of the Arab countries are ruled by one or other clan or group, they collapsed once the ruler was dethroned. The national identity of these countries relies on individual ruler, not on the country’s institution. However, Egypt and Turkey have a long state building and have their identity based on it.

“The state of Israel has built on its own identity as a Jewish state and democratic institutions to guarantee functional democracy where all diverse religious and ethnic groups are living together as an identity of  Israel,” said Dr. Oren.

As Nepal is in the process of state building through the promulgation of new constitution, it has been facing several issues, including religion, ethnicity and sharing of political power. Although Nepal is one of the oldest nations in the world with almost 240 years of state building, it is yet to establish vibrant modern institutions like judiciary, executive and legislature even after the promulgation of six modern constitutions in just over 66 years.

“Although Israel has no written constitution, we have a collection of basic laws and institutions. They are the guarantor of democracy in Israel,” said Dr. Oren. “Israel is living in an abnormal situation where we receive rocket fired by our enemies. However, we are living with full sense of security because of our state institutions as well as civil society organizations.”

“Constitution is just a means and it is not an end. State building is possible if there are vibrant institutions, not constitution. In Israel, the issue of constitution always created disputes and disunity. Thus, we have decided to put off writing the constitution,” said Dr. Oren.    

At a time when even an old state like United Kingdom faced the crisis of unity following the decision of Scotland to hold the referendum whether to remain under union or be independent, Nepal is in the process of writing a new constitution for building a unified Nepal.

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