In memory of Ze’ev Boim, an exemplary public servant

Ze’evik never established a camp to advance his personal political cause, and he shied away from political aggression, find middle ground for conflicts.

By TZACHI HANEGBI
March 27, 2011 22:25
Zeev Boim

ZEEV BOIM 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

 
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Last week, we followed the coffin of Ze’ev Boim on its way to its final resting place. Yes, there are many other pertinent topics to write about, but I must dedicate this article to Ze’evik. The escalation in the South will be relevant for months, unfortunately.

The Arab revolts will also be with us for some time. If I don’t write about Boim now, however, I might not be able to any time soon.

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In 2008, Kadima held primary elections. Boim, then minister of housing and construction, was unexpectedly elected to the fourth spot. He fared better than veteran candidates and others who had more of a media presence. But those of us who knew Ze’evik were not surprised.

Ever since he had completed a full decade as successful mayor of Kiryat Gat, and then served as an MK and a minister, Boim was considered an outstanding public servant, not because of any reverberating statements that made headlines, but due to his dedication and conscientiousness.

Many in his party appreciated his dedication to public affairs, and his statesman-like approach. He did not establish a camp to advance his personal political cause, and shied away from political aggression. He preferred quiet leadership. Very rarely did he raise his voice, and he always tried to find the middle ground between conflicting positions.

His vision rested on values he had absorbed in Nahalat Jabotinsky – the community named after the former head of Betar, who died in 1940. Three years later, Ze’ev Boim was born. His parents, Yosef and Hana, named him after the admired leader, as was often done in that generation of Jabotinsky’s students.

For five consecutive Knessets, I served in Boim’s circle, including during Ariel Sharon’s second tenure as prime minister. Naturally, the many experiences we had together come to mind as I write these parting words. I will limit myself to recounting one recent episode to give readers who did not know him a glimpse into his unique personality.

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AFTER THE 2009 elections, Kadima chose not to enter the coalition of Binyamin Netanyahu and, instead, to serve in the 18th Knesset from the opposition benches.

All senior party members gave up their offices and returned to serving as regular MKs.

Some senior party members, including Boim, were assigned, in the best parliamentary tradition, to the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, which I had headed since 2006. At the time, I was looking for a party member who could serve as chairman of the Subcommittee for Home Front Readiness – a position which fell open after the incumbent, Yitzhak Ben- Israel, lost his Knesset seat.

I believed Boim was ideal for the role. He had served as deputy defense minister in charge of home front affairs. His rich experience as a minister and mayor had provided him with in-depth knowledge of the workings of local authorities, which in times of emergency must play a frontline role on behalf of communities under attack.

Despite this, I could not find the courage to offer Ze’evik the role. From experience, I knew how hard it was for a just-resigned minister to get used to the grayer world of more routine Knesset work. A minister who for years had steered an important ministry, allocating a budget for a wide range of activities, employing hundreds to implement his policies, would not easily adjust to his new situation as a regular MK, and even less so in the opposition. Why would a man who until 48 hours before had served as housing minister agree to lead a subcommittee of five members, with no budget whatsoever, whose activities are carried out far from the public eye, with the help of just one aide and one secretary?

In the end I overcame my fear that my offer to Boim would place him in a troublesome and embarrassing position, and asked to meet with him urgently.

I raised the idea with him as delicately as I could. I was sure that in the best-case scenario, he would reply that he had no objections in principle to considering the role in the future, but that for now, he would have to get used to the situation created by the new elections, and that consequently I should look elsewhere for a solution.

But evidently I didn’t know Boim well enough. The idea of refusing never crossed his mind. On the contrary, as a long-time resident of the South and as someone who had been keenly concerned for the wellbeing of communities in the Gaza periphery during Operation Cast Lead, he saw the subcommittee as an important tool to strengthen morale. He had no reservations, he did not need time to reorganize, he wasn’t looking for titles, publicity or budgets. His answer was yes and he took on the role the following morning.

BOIM SERVED as chairman of the Subcommittee for Home Front Readiness for more than a year, and led it energetically and decisively – the way he fulfilled every public role he held. But a year ago, he walked into my office unannounced, bearing bad news.
He had cancer, and his doctors were recommending that he undergo experimental treatment in the US. He did not yet know how much time he would need to be away from his Knesset duties, but he wasn’t prepared to let the subcommittee’s activities become paralyzed in his absence. He recommended that MK Ze’ev Bielski – who had also served as mayor of a large city (Ra’anana) and was thus well aware of the complex home-front situation – take his place.

Ze’evik told me all this calmly; he didn’t sound like someone who was going through the intense turmoil that comes with fighting for one’s life. Even in moments of crisis, he remained committed to his values, and took pains to ensure that the challenges he and his family were facing would not in any way negatively affect the public interest.

To all of our sorrow, the public has indeed paid a price. Ze’evik Boim will be missed not just by his wife and loving daughters, but also by the State of Israel, the Knesset and by us, his friends and colleagues.

The writer is a former Kadima minister.

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