For 70 days we waited, with bated breath, for the historic decision, promised to
Israel by the odd couple of our political system – Bibi Netanyahu and Shaul
Mofaz - to create, after 64 years, a shared balance of burdens in serving in the
army and society. The outcome of endless and futile committees and negotiations
was, as predicted, no history and no decision.
The governmental coalition
has shrunken to 64 MKs – Bibi and his traditional allies of the extreme Right
and the ultra-Orthodox; a coalition that will not be able to pass a law
replacing the Tal legislation, and probably will not be able to accomplish much,
except possibly the expansion of some settlements.
Elections are in the
air, likely to be held in the beginning of 2013. It comes at a time when Israel
is at strategic crossroads on virtually all the important domains that determine
the security and the well-being of the country.
We thus need to ask
ourselves three important questions:
1) Are we better off than we were four
2) What are the strategic decisions that need to be taken by the next government to ensure a safer and better future?
3) What is the nature of the
leadership that Israel needs to face these strategic challenges? There is hardly
an important field related to our national existence in which Israel does not
face a dramatic crisis. It is not just about being worse off than four years
ago, it is sadly about a grave deterioration of our national security and
In the region, we have lost the alliances we had with two out
of the three leading Muslim countries – Egypt and Turkey. Furthermore, our
regional posture has been gravely affected by the Arab Spring. Official Israel
always preferred the comfort of stable relationships with pro-Western Arab
dictators to dealing with Arab public opinion in a more democratic process,
given the Islamist tendencies of the Arab political landscape and the hostility
for our handling of the Palestinian issue.
Instead of meeting these
challenges, the government is hypnotized by the illusion of a nonexistent status
quo. Much of this is linked to the total stalemate on the Palestinian
Instead of a possible two-state solution, we have a plague on both
our houses, and many more houses in the settlements. The Arabs and the
Palestinians bear their share of the blame, yet it is primarily up to us to make
a strategic and historical choice to divide the land – according to a partition
accepted internationally, including by the United States – on the basis of the
1967 lines (with mutual land swaps), or to condemn future generations to live in
a binational state, neither Jewish nor democratic.
Right now, Netanyahu
is proceeding hand-inhand with the settlers toward the doomsday scenario, which
would completely isolate us both in the region and in the international
community, also in relation to the all-important Iranian
Domestically, our society has in the past four years undergone a
dangerous polarization on many fronts, including in the growing gap between the
haves and the have-nots, as expressed in the protest movement of 2011, which has
emerged despite some macro-economic stability.
The schism within Israel
is on the verge of creating social unrest, such as between religious and
secular, Jews and Arabs, new immigrants (especially Ethiopians) and veterans,
Left and Right.
These social crises are paralleled by a democratic
crisis. Our parliament is striving not to control the executive, which is by
definition its role, but rather to control the judiciary. The Right did not miss
a rhetorical or judicial opportunity to undermine the clout of the High Court of
Justice and to enact quasi racist legislation.
So four years later we are
not only worse off, but we face possibly the most severe crises, in relation to
our regional security, our Jewish and democratic identity, our social cohesion,
and justice and our democratic system. There is a need for a national rescue
based on historic and strategic decision-making of the next government. Most of
the country already knows what the necessary directions and decisions are:
divorce from the West Bank and the settlements in favor of a two-state solution,
with stringent security measures, strengthening our strategic posture in the
region and our legitimacy in the world, also in relation to the need to build an
• A new social covenant, in which there is a return to the
basic values of the Declaration of Independence – respect of the other, of human
rights and of minorities;
• A more involved government vis-à-vis social services
to reduce the gap between the haves and the have-nots; and
• A clear balance
between the legislative, executive and judicial branches, through basic laws, or
preferably a constitution.
Yet most of the country is also resigned and
disillusioned by petty politics and politicians.
In other words, the next
election must be held with a view that Israel is in need of revolutionary
reforms and strategic, historic decisions. In the 2013 election we are not just
looking for a new government, but also for new and real
Historically Israel had two types of leaders: the fathers of
the revolution – the founding fathers of the state – and the sons of the
revolution, mostly people who rose from the army into politics.
fathers of the Israeli revolution took the most dramatic strategic and historic
decisions: the creation of the state, the creation of one army (the IDF), the
ingathering of immigrants, the creation of a growing and just economy, a wide
spectrum of international relations, victories in war, and the beginning of
peace. Among them, the outstanding ones were David Ben-Gurion, Menachem Begin,
Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres.
They acted according to strategic visions
of the future, which could be achieved only with courageous decisions; vision,
values and courage that turned Israel into a dramatic success story.
came the sons of the revolution, who are many but in leadership are most
typified by Barak and Netanyahu. Aids to the historic leaders, brave IDF
commanders, yet politicians of a new brand, technocrats led by popularity and
partisan consideration, without the courage of the fathers and mothers to take
unpopular and historic decisions.
The apple fell far from the tree;
today’s Israel is the result of the actions of both types of
Given the crossroads at which we find ourselves, in the next
election we must seek new leadership, one that can lead us into the next stage
of the Israeli revolution – toward peace, security, social justice, cohesion, a
prominent place in the family of nations, and a vibrant liberal
Who are such leaders? It is easier to answer who they are not
– Bibi Netanyahu (and Ehud Barak for that matter). It is almost taken as a
forgone conclusion that Bibi will win the next election. Well, it doesn’t have
to be that way. The people of Israel know that they deserve and need
Yet without any grand leaders on the horizon, the next leadership
could be as in many European countries – a team leadership, such as Tzipi Livni
and Shelly Yechimovich, or Yair Lapid and Ehud Olmert, Gabi Ashkenazi and Meir
Dagan; we do not lack gifted, value-driven and courageous people.
and foremost we need to comprehend what is at stake for the next Israeli
government, and that we are in serious need of profound change.The
writer is president of the Peres Center for Peace and served as Israel’s chief
negotiator for the Oslo Accords.