Many have argued that a proposal before the Knesset to affirm Israel’s status as “the nation-state of the Jewish people” is geared to favor Israel’s Jewish over its democratic character. Yoram Hazony contends that this argument is not simply wrong, but is based on a false understanding
[Israel’s] success has not been in spite of [its] character as the state of the Jewish people, but because of it. To see this, one need only compare Israel’s trajectory to that of other states established in the region at around the same time but based on a “multi-national” model: Syria (independent 1946) was assembled by the French by forcing together Alawite, Druze, Kurd, Assyrian Christian, and Sunni Arab peoples—willfully ignoring national and religious boundaries and vocal demands by some of these peoples to be granted independent states of their own. Iraq (independent 1932) was a similar British construct, imposing a single state on radically disparate Kurdish, Assyrian, Sunni Arab, and Shiite Arab peoples, among others. Most states in the Middle East—“pan-Arab” in name only—were built by the Western powers in just this way.
The results of these experiments in constructing multi-national states have been just as [John Stuart] Mill predicted. Israel, built around a cohesive and overwhelming Jewish majority, was able to establish internal stability without repression, and quickly developed into a fully-functioning democracy. In contrast, the other states of the region have been able to retain their integrity only through brutality and state terror. . . .
In a sense, this is a distinctly Israeli vision, emerging from the Jews’ experience of suffering and redemption in the last century. But it is also a humane and universal vision—the only one that can offer genuine hope to the devastated peoples of the region. This vision receives concrete re-affirmation in the proposed basic law confirming Israel as Jewish state, which reinforces a vision of the Middle East as advancing . . . in the direction of an order of independent nations based on the principle of religious and national self-determination.