Middle Israel: Person of the year

September 11, 2007 16:54
amotz asa el 88

amotz asa el 88. (photo credit: )


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Having come on the heels of the horrendous year in which our politicians, generals and entire North were laid bare, there was room for hope that 5767 would bring with it introspection, change and healing. It didn't. What resignations we saw came grudgingly, belatedly and acrimoniously, and on the whole we saw an unreconstructed, immoral leadership doing all it could to cling to power. Yes, we have had our fair share of corruption fighters, and no, we have no reason at this point to say their struggles failed, and yes, it would have been so nice to celebrate here today Judge Eliahu Winograd, Accountant-General Yaron Zelekha or State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss. Who do choose as person of the year? However, besides the fact that they have enjoyed the hind wind of titles and offices, and besides the fact that personally they risked nothing - two are retired judges and the third's path to the business sector is wide open - the bottom line of all their labors is that they have not been effective. Perhaps next year we can toast Judge Winograd, if he actually leads the man who conceived last year's Lebanese catastrophe where he will not go by himself. The departures we have seen so far, of Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz and former defense minister Amir Peretz, came regardless of Winograd, and if anyone is to be credited with them it is we, the media. The other notable resignations, Maj.-Gen. Udi Adam's and Brig.-Gen. Gal Hirsch's, commendably represented the old IDF's value of accountability, but at the same time highlighted the politicians' disdain for it. Not only did this year not produce the political turnaround our situation begged, it in fact only saw shamelessness reach new heights, as the Jewish state's president and finance minister were forced to resign due to sexual misconduct and embezzlement allegations respectively, while a man actually convicted of sexual misconduct was appointed vice premier. The depth of our governmental bankruptcy became unbearable in 5767. One day we learned that Shimon Peres and Haim Ramon actually opposed the war's expansion, but still voted with Ehud Olmert because they didn't want to appear disloyal - not to the citizens, of course, nor to the soldiers, but to the man who appointed them. Another day we heard the foreign minister, with our own ears, call on the prime minister to resign, only to see her the next day, with our own eyes, follow his lead. Then we saw the Labor Party replace a Marxist tribune with a capitalist tycoon without even trying to explain this U-turn, if not to the public then at least to itself. In the Likud, the party's No. 2 compared it to Syria's Ba'ath. Meanwhile, Yvette Lieberman's faction mocked its voters - 10% of the electorate - first by backing a prime minister they mostly detest, then by designating as a cabinet minister an anonymous person with a fake resume. Faced with all this, it seemed almost inescapable that for the second straight year, we will be compelled to make a negative pick for Person of the Year, following last year's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Such a choice would have likely led us either to one of the current void's architects, say Ramon, or to one that was sucked into it and thrived there. One very plausible choice for Person of the Year 5767 is Arkadi Gaydamak. Here is a man who can't even comprehend us natives' tongue, a guy whose wealth remains as unexplained as his brief arrival and abrupt departure from here in the 1970s, but who still aspires to lead us. Figuring prominently in an alleged money laundering scandal, having bought Betar Jerusalem and having bid for the Tiv Ta'am non-kosher supermarket chain, the reputed arms dealer who is wanted in France and carries an Angolan passport could appear in forlorn Sderot as a momentary savior for the prosaic reason that our elected leaders were effectively not there. Proper leadership may or may not have swiftly delivered to Sderot the security it lacks, but at least it would have disabused its inhabitants of the sense that they are alone; being exposed is one thing, being exposed and abandoned is another. When London was bombed, the royal family remained there, under the enemy's bombs, rather than hide in one of the many castles it had well beyond the bombardments' range. In Israel of 5767 this should have meant Ehud and Aliza Olmert moving to live in Sderot where, as Olmert surely heard, rent is cheap right now. That would have inspired the people, and eventually also their generals and politicians. But in Israel of 5767 few expected this kind of leadership-by-example from a man whose own sons evaded service in the army he sent to war and in fact don't even live in the country his citizens inhabit. Considering that the omnipresent Gaydamak was both the perfectly logical and grotesquely surreal by-product of all this non-leadership, he really could have been our Person of the Year, but for the Moshe Katsav affair. There, we actually found a positive, if unlikely, Person of the Year. ALEF'S REAL name has yet to be officially released, and her personal case remains, according to jurists, problematic, inconsistent and difficult to establish in a court of law. Moreover, from what she has revealed in the press conference she held last spring, and from what we generally know of the secretaries who populate Israel's corridors of power, this woman is not overly educated, nor is she a prodigy. She certainly made a big mistake in initially allowing a married man, her boss in fact and the president of the country of all people, to flirt with her. Yet Alef did one thing right: She threw the book at the one Israeli non-leader she faced, and she did so even more powerfully - certainly more effectively and far more sacrificially - than all the rich, educated and publicly protected whistle blowers put together, from Lindenstrauss to Zelekha. Be her own case's legal validity what it may, Alef touched off the chain reaction that brought forth the rest of the women who collectively deposed the formal head of the Jewish state at a time when he and his colleagues' corruption became as unbearable as they seemed unbeatable, a time when no emphatic statement - from Winograd's interim report to Kikar Rabin's mass rallies - could even make them blush, this woman's shout finally made one of them lift his hands to his ear drums, as she conveyed what 5767's every morning and every evening told every Israeli about almost every Israeli leader: The emperor has no clothes. That is why Alef is Middle Israel's Person of the Year.

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