Hayk Kotanjian: "The Revival of the Armenian and Jewish Statehoods in Response to National Catastrophes"
Professor, LTG (R) HAYK SARGIS KOTANJIAN, D. Sc. (Strategic Security Studies, Academy of Public Administration to the President of RF); International Counterterrorism Fellow (US NDU); Academic Consultant of the US-RF Strategic Dialogue on the Start of Reset, Harvard National Security Program, Kennedy School of Government (2010).
The presentation at the “From National Catastrophes to Revival of Statehoods” Conference in Yerevan at 12.14.2018 organized by the Jewish Community of Armenia and the “Armenia-Israel, Israel-Armenia” International Public Forum dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the Republic of Armenia and the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the State of Israel.
Dear Colleagues and Friends!
I believe it is my duty to begin my report by informing you that a few days ago the Global Forum Against the Crime of Genocide was concluded, which started on 9 December in Yerevan, when the entire educated world community observed the International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide. Holding such a forum means the UN’s vital acknowledgement of Armenia’s initiative to proclaim 9 December as the International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide and Prevention of this Crime .
In this sense, I have an honor to highlight that the UN adopted the abovementioned resolution on Armenia’s initiative in September 2015, in the year of the 100th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide committed in the Ottoman Empire. The date of the 9 December was chosen in connection with the fact that 70 years ago, back in 1948, the UN General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, elaborated by Raphael Lemkin, a Professor of Jewish decent .
Withal, it’s important to note the Global Forum Against the Crime of Genocide was organized in Yerevan on the anniversary of the revival of the national statehoods of Armenian and Jewish peoples – the 100th anniversary of the Republic of Armenia and the 70th anniversary of the State of Israel.
These jubilees are correlated with an unprecedented – on a global scale –similarity in the means of the political response by both of our ancient nations towards the national catastrophes, which called the very existence of our nations into question. And it is this very unprecedented feature that our nations put into the modern political history by the fact that they performed a great feat indeed in reviving their own statehoods in response to the Armenian Genocide in the Ottoman Empire, and the Holocaust in reference to the Jews in Europe.
The May victories of 1918 won by the Armenian people enabled them, on the aftermaths of the WWI, in the face of the fate, to restore the statehood on some minor part of the historical territory of Armenia. The establishment of the Republic of Armenia marked the restoration of the Armenian statehood five and half centuries after the fall of the Armenian state of Cilicia (in 1375). It was the First Republic of Armenia to set up the politico-legal and institutional bases for establishing the present-day republic.
Amid the historical accomplishments of the 20th century, in line with the revival of the Armenian statehood in 1918, is the crucial heroism of the Jewish people of decreeing the State of Israel after the 2 thousand years of being worldwide dispersed – in response to the Holocaust. The decision of the worldwide Jewish community to form their own state at the end of the WWII may be explained by fact that no state was capable of providing for the protection of the Jewish people’s inherent right to life, just like it was with the Armenian people. As a result, on 14 May, 1948, in fulfillment of the UN Security Council’s resolution, came true Doctor Herzl’s dream on restoring the State of Israel as the spiritual center for the Jewish People, from where in broad sense the Jewish culture was to emanate, including the advanced education and science, as well as the achievements of the science-oriented technological progress.
The similarity between the priorities of Armenian and Jewish national elites was reflected in the value and politico-legal orientation of both states towards promoting democracy, in connection with which the Republic of Armenia 100 years ago, and the State of Israel 70 years ago, were proclaimed parliamentary republics.
Leaving aside the historical and the historiographical assessment of the jubilees of the revival of the Armenian and Jewish statehoods to the honorable historians, allow me to briefly dwell on a number of political aspects of the understanding the similarity of responding both our friendly nations towards national catastrophes, in view of the perspectives of developing friendship and collaboration between Armenia and Israel.
Worth to mention is that a few years ago, at the Joint session of the Parliamentary Friendship Groups of the National Assembly and the Knesset, a protocol resolution was adopted which stated the establishment of the “Armenia-Israel, Israel-Armenia” Public Forum, which became a public platform for consultations between the professionals and their organizations of both our states. According to the agreement of both parties, the Forum was called to carry out its activity via NGOs targeted at establishing dialogue between professional groups in those spheres of activity, which mirror the cooperation interests in the realms of science, education, public health, culture, information and multi-faceted business.
Our Forum was in search of spheres for possible overlapping of mutual interests in a number of instances of the vital activities in Armenia and Israel, and this promoted the preparation of the grounds for starting intergovernmental relations in the spheres of transport, communication and information technologies, as well as agriculture. It first started with the visit to Yerevan by honorable Doctor Tzachi Hanegbi, Member of the Knesset and Regional Cooperation Minister in Israel, by discussing the perspectives of bilateral practical cooperation in the relevant ministries of Armenia .
Interest towards the efficiency of the parliamentary model of the state setup in Armenia, as is known, increased in the meantime of the pre-election propaganda, accompanying the snap elections to the National Assembly. In this sense, I am obliged to note the enormous assistance rendered me by my Israeli colleagues in studying the parliamentary model of the government in the State of Israel. This regards to the results of my fellowships in Israel on adaptation of the parliamentary model of Israel to the specifics of Armenia based on the lessons learnt in the Jewish parliamentary state on strategic task-solving regarding the innovative development of the society, and guaranteeing national security in terms of the challenges towards the very existence of Israel. Particular attention was paid to the efficiency of interaction between the State of Israel and its Diaspora for the benefit of the productive development of the holistic system of the World Jewry.
Now, reverting to the 70th anniversary of the revival of the Jewish State, I draw my colleagues’ attention to the wit of its creators, who built up Israel practically in the desert, throughout the War of Independence in 1947-1949 fought by the Jewish population of no more than 700 thousand people simultaneously against seven neighboring states. The wisdom of the decision in favor of the parliamentary model was aimed at creating favorable conditions for the formation within a democratic rivalry of such a qualified party-political environment that would put the most talented figures forward into the political elites and leaders of Israel. That is the reason that for 43 years, starting with the Knesset of the 1st Convocation, elected in January 1949, six months after the declaration on the establishment of the State of Israel and before the elections to the 13th Knesset in 1992, the election threshold for passing to the Knesset was only 1%. Thus, such a low barrier to the passage of political parties in the Israeli Parliament was proposed by the strategically forward-looking founders of the parliamentary State of Israel.
At the beginning of engaging the newly elected National Assembly of Armenia in the political process, I consider it appropriate to return to the lessons learned from Israel on the effective interaction of the Government and Parliament with the parliamentary model of government – from the point of its political reliability and political effectiveness in general.
I appreciate the Israeli colleagues’ willingness to cooperate in a comparative analysis of the threats to the existence and sustainable development of our two states in electing the parliamentary model of government, and draw our attention to the fundamental mistake made.
The fundamental mistake is, in the first place, that the choice was made in favor of the parliamentary model of Germany, whose security, unlike Armenia and Israel, is safely guaranteed by its membership in NATO, and the environment of friendly neighbors. My task was to develop an adaptation to the features of the external security environment of the Republic of Armenia, of the parliamentary model of the State of Israel, whose security, like Armenia’s, is based on the strategic calculation of external security threats to the existence of the Jewish state and people.
With regard to the aforesaid, as a reference, I consider my duty to note that, as a strategic analyst, I have had the opportunity to study parliamentary models of government in the course of 8 fellowships in Germany and 6 – in Israel with expert visits to the Bundestag, Bundesrat, and Knesset, respectively.
Second, the fundamental mistake in choosing not the Israeli, but the German parliamentary model is that as a model of the government of a unitary Republic, which has no autonomies within its structure, instead of the elaborated adaptation of the parliamentary model of unitary Israel, the model of the Federal Republic of Germany has been employed, where the federal representative authority consists not only of the elected parliament – the Bundestag, but also of the nonelected Bundesrat which represents authorities of 16 states – the autonomies within the Federal Republic of Germany.
It should be noted that parliamentary Israel, which is assessed by the world community as one of the most effective examples of real democracy, is an example of effective safeguarding of its national security, as well as that of intensive economic, scientific and technological development.
At the same time, applying the model of federal Germany to unitary Armenia deprived our new parliament of the platform to maintain constant dialogue on the conflict and intersection of interests of the parties represented in the government with participation of members of the very representative authority.
The toolkit for resolving internal political conflicts, as well as successfully countering external threats in the Israeli model of parliamentarism, proved its effectiveness for 70 years: with 4-year term in the Knesset’s cadence, the average activity of convening Parliament over the years of Israel’s existence is quite high and makes it 3.5 years. In this case, the reason for the efficiency of managing political crises lies in the systemic character of the Israeli parliamentary model, which mirrors the strategic interests of the national security, and the sustainable development of the Jewish people both in Israel, and in the World Jewry system as a whole.
It is with such a parliamentary system of government that for the entire 70 years of its existence Israel, successfully following the best standards of real democracy, facing threats to the state existence and repetition of genocide, likewise Armenia, effectively solves the tasks of both national security, and the progressive development of a scientifically and technologically oriented economy.
To my mind, our newly elected leadership of the parliamentary state will act rationally if, in this extremely responsible period of formation of government institutions, highly qualified specialists start to study ways to amend the relevant legislative acts, and later on – the Constitution, in order to overcome the above-mentioned mistakes.
Dear Colleagues and Friends, in conclusion, allow me to once again congratulate all of us on the glorious anniversaries of the revival of our ancient statehoods by the Armenian and Jewish peoples – the 100th anniversary of the Republic of Armenia, and the 70th anniversary of the State of Israel.