It seems as though the world is going through a leadership crisis, possibly
stemming from a fundamental change in the whole notion of governance.
United States, the European Union and Japan are barely able to control their own
economies at a time of crises and recession.
We are witnessing
social-political unrest in various parts of the world, not least of all the
Middle East. There are underlying factors contributing to the weakness of modern
day government and governance:
• The growing power of the international private
sector that to a large degree dominates economic processes.
• A growing
sense of empowerment of societies, which on a worldwide scale have taken their
protest to the streets and squares of their cities, from Wall Street to Tahrir.
No wonder Time
magazine chose “The Protester” as its Person of the Year
• The growing influence of civil society on social-political
processes; NGOs are today in many ways no less influential than
• The profound influence of modern media on the public
agenda, previously dominated by government.
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• The bureaucratic nature of
today’s politicians – “grand leadership” of historical proportions is hard to
come by in an era shaped by politicians constantly hypnotized by public opinion
Globally, these elements result in the inability of leaders to
collaborate and affect change. The endless summits in Europe over the Greek
economic crisis are proof of that. In the Middle East, the crisis is even more
severe and has resulted so far in the toppling of four dictatorships – in
Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen, with Syria being the next in line. Young rebels
protesting en masse have become more powerful than some of the largest armies in
And yet, even after these revolutions, we are witnessing a
kind of people-cracy more than democracy, with religious currents for the time
being rendering effective rule almost impossible.
This crisis is very
evident in Israel, where our political leadership has practically ceased ruling
and instead is clinging to power and curtailing democracy and human rights.
There are an abundance of examples of this:
• Last summer the young middle class
took to the streets in the hundreds of thousands, demanding affordable living,
social justice and a change in the excessively capitalistic system. The
government’s response was weak and insufficient. A panel (the Trajtenberg
Committee) was created, whose already insufficient recommendations were then
• A deep crisis in our public health system, despite
the recent accord between the young doctors and the Finance Ministry; Israel cannot pride itself anymore on an effective, egalitarian healthcare
• The dangerous legislation aimed at politicizing and weakening
the High Court of Justice, with the support of the prime minister, is disrupting
the balance between the executive and judicial branches, thus undermining the
• The populist, racist legislation of Binyamin
Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman’s special troops in the Knesset, targeting the
equal rights of the Arab minority, freedom of the press and freedom of
• The dangerous lack of respect toward equal gender rights, as
exemplified by forbidding women to sing in public performances, including in the
army, or even to sit at the front of the bus where men are seated. This
is not Tehran, but Jerusalem.
It is therefore no wonder that Britain’s
prestigious Economist Intelligence Unit, in its 2011 Democracy Index, defined
Israel as a “flawed democracy,” with a rating of our degree of civil liberties
on par with that of Uganda, Libya and Lebanon.
Most dangerous is the
latest strengthening of the extreme right’s settlers, backed tacitly by the
settler movement as a whole, and with a wink by many elements in Netanyahu’s
coalition. These fanatic zealots, by setting fire to Palestinian property and
Muslim religious structures, risk setting fire to the whole region. They are a
dangerous form of Jewish terror and racism. Their main aim is to sabotage any
slight chance of a peace process that would “endanger” the presence of illegal
outposts, not to speak of settlements.
Incredibly, only last week scores
of them attacked the IDF, infiltrating an army base and wounding a senior
officer. The head of the Central Command, Maj.-Gen. Avi Mizrachi, said that
never in all his years of services has he seen such Jewish hatred toward our
Hating IDF soldiers is in effect hating Israel. Attacking them
is an attack against the state.
This tragic process, quite probably only
at its beginning, highlights the lack of governance by our prime minister in a
dramatic manner. He refuses to name the Jewish terrorists for what they are, and
has chosen to apply measures that are mostly more of the same. Too little, too
And too late it very well may be. If we continue to slide into the
abyss of undemocratic legislation and attack on our democratic institutions,
violent anarchy threatens.
Next time the High Court of Justice orders the
government to evacuate an illegal outpost, live ammunition may be used by the
This is the most severe crisis of governance and
democracy since the state became independent in 1948. The remedies the
government is suggesting are the equivalent of aspirin for a cancer
If Netanyahu is anything of a leader he should form an emergency
unity government with Kadima and Labor, divorce the extreme right of Lieberman
and company and the haredim, and then proceed forcefully to arrest and disarm
the extreme zealot settlers, evacuate all illegal outposts, cancel the
undemocratic legislative efforts against the High Court, freedom of speech and
the rights of the Arab minority, and enforce the law with conviction against
those who threaten gender equality.
The final outcome of such a move
should be the announcement of a settlement freeze, enabling a viable peace
process with the Palestinians, based on a two-state solution. In this manner he
can ensure that one of these states is Jewish and democratic.
there has always been a sense of “anything you (the world) can do, we can do
better.” This is definitely true for the governance and leadership crises in the
world, and it may not yet be too late.The writer is president of the
Peres Center for Peace and served as Israel’s chief negotiator for the Oslo
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