(May 29, 2022 / JNS) The second Israel Conservative Conference, sponsored by the Tikva Foundation and the Friedman Center for Power Peace, was held in Jerusalem on May 26. The message of the conference is spreading – bringing conservative ideas to a country with a socialist political tradition.
“Unlike the United States, where most young people are increasingly progressive, in Israel the opposite is true. More and more young Israelis are mixing classical liberal tendencies with conservative ideas,” says Israel’s Tikva Foundation ( According to Amiad Cohen, the organization’s headquartered in New York.
This year’s conference attracted 1,200 people, double the number of the first conference held in 2019. Cohen made it clear that the conservative movement in Israel is making progress. Many of the attendees were also young and enthusiastic.
For Cohen, educational initiatives are critical as Israel transitions from a resource-starved developing country to a strong free-market economy.
“Our problem is that the country starts with socialist ideas,” Cohen told JNS. “All the legal institutions we have, the intellectual institutions, are socialist. The State of Israel establishes the relationship between the individual and the state in the exact opposite of the way that prevails in the Western world.”
The problem is deeper because Israelis lack access to alternative thought — conservative thought — Cohen said, noting that only a third of Adam Smith’s foundational work on classical economics, The Wealth of Nations, has been translated into Hebrew. Israeli economics and political science students told Cohen that their first contact with Adam Smith was through the Tikva Foundation workshop.
“Academia here is useless. The books they teach are not only one-sided, they are low-level; they are one-sided and immature,” he said. “The goal of the conference is to expand our outreach from 10,000 to hundreds of thousands of people through a conference with public impact.”
Israel’s Tikva Foundation publishes a conservative magazine, hosts educational seminars, and publishes various books by conservative thinkers including Friedrich Hayek, Thomas Sowell, Jordan Peterson, and others translate.
The conference covers a range of topics from a conservative perspective, from energy to sovereignty to justice. American conservative audiences may be familiar with several guest speakers, including historian Victor Davis Hansen, presidential adviser Elliott Abrams (who is also chairman of the Tikva Foundation), Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and Middle East analyst Caroline Glick. Some of the more well-known stars of Israel’s conservative ranks include journalist Amit Siegel, former Israeli national security adviser Mel Ben Shabbat, former NBA star Omri Kasby, author Gadi Taub and radio Host Jacob Bardugo.
Taub told JNS that in a country like Israel with a large bureaucratic state, high taxes, strong unions and entrenched socialist ideology, it is extremely important to introduce conservative ideas such as a free market system, individualism and personal responsibility.
“There are far more new and interesting ideas on the right than on the left,” Taub said. “The left is sinking deeper and deeper into the idiocy of awakening ideology and identity politics, which are politics of posturing, politics of empty thought. However, the left is still the power center of the culture, so we need to organize. We need to exchange views. ”
For Taub, the current political divide boils down to a struggle between “globalist elites” and “citizens of the country.”
“We are national citizens. They can call us conservatives. They can call us populists. But we have two main characteristics: we support the nation-state and we are liberal democrats. The globalist elite has awakened and progressed “It’s clearly anti-nationalist. It’s clearly anti-democratic and increasingly anti-liberal,” he said.
In Israel, he said, the divide between those who support the Jewish state and those who support “their so-called, misleading, state of all its citizens — that is, a non-Jewish or multi-ethnic state,” is manifested in Israel, Taub said.
The conflict between citizens and globalists is one of the key topics discussed between Victor Davis Hansen and Caroline Glick. Hanson, in his most recent book, Dying Citizens: How Progressive Elites, Tribalism, and Globalization Are Destroying American Ideas, states that “all of these issues we have in America revolve around citizens,” noting that 50 Exclusive privileges that were only available to citizens a few years ago are now open to anyone residing on U.S. soil, except those holding public office.
American elites, he said, have allegiance to world bodies like the International Criminal Court or the World Health Organization, and they think they are smarter because they are more universal or international.
Numerous conservative groups and book publishers lined the corridor outside the auditorium where the afternoon meeting group was held. Boaz Arad, founder of the Israel Freedom Movement, a liberal group that set up tables at conferences, told JNS that conservative movements are a fairly new phenomenon in Israel. (His organization was founded in 2011.)
One of the things about Israel’s conservative movement, he said, is that, given the country’s intellectual heritage, it’s easy to introduce new ideas into the debate. “As soon as Ayn Rand’s book hit the Israeli market, it became a bestseller,” he said.
Allard sees Israel’s free-market progress as “irreversible”, which has eroded the country’s initially socialist economy. “Once people have tasted freedom financially or intellectually, it is very difficult to send them back to prison,” he said.
David Friedman, the U.S. ambassador to Israel during the Trump administration, delivered a keynote speech in which he argued that Israel needs to make decisions of national significance without worrying about what the U.S. thinks.
“A mature nation decides for itself what is best for its citizens. Respect yourself and your rights — I would say your sacred duty — to chart the right path for the Jewish state. That’s what a mature nation does. ,” he stressed. “Not everyone will agree with you, but everyone will respect you.”
The session ended on a note favored by nationalists rather than globalists, as the audience burst into spontaneous renditions of Israel’s national anthem, “Hatikvah.”