Analysis: Being nice isn't enough

Blumenthal told the court she had been taught to be good to those not as well off as herself.

naomi blumenthal 298 88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
naomi blumenthal 298 88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
On a personal level, the bottom line of the Nomi Blumenthal affair is that she got in over her head when she decided to become a national politician in 1992. Not that she didn t have many of the qualifications that a politician needs. She wanted to do good, she wanted to be in the heart of the action, she was personable and likeable, she loved politics and she was ambitious. Blumenthal was handpicked by then-Likud MK Sarah Doron to take her place in the Knesset as a representative of the defunct Liberal Party when Doron decided to retire. In the following years, Blumenthal proved she was able to handle the rough and tumble of internal Likud politics including the party s all-powerful Central Committee. She was reelected to the Knesset in 1996, 1999 and, of course, 2003. In the Knesset, she climbed the political ladder, serving at one time as head of the Knesset Immigrant Absorption Committee and, later, as a deputy minister. But the events that began on December 5, 2002 revealed another part of Blumenthal, one lacking the toughness of character, the courage and the fundamental honesty required of a public leader. During the court session on sentencing pleas, one Blumenthal acquaintance after another testified about how generous she was. She herself told the court she had been taught in childhood to be good to those not as well off as herself. As a member of the Knesset, Blumenthal was motivated by ambition and enjoyment of political life, but she also brought to it a sense of noblesse oblige, a feeling that she came from the higher spheres of Israeli society in terms of wealth in order to help those 'less fortunate than herself.' And she continued to live in those higher spheres. When she finally decided to talk in court, Blumenthal said, "I am a good person, not a bad one. I am courteous and speak politely." These qualities are not necessarily a persuasive calling card for a politician, but they are important things for her to say about herself and the world in which she lives and from which she makes her forays into the 'regular' world. It was in court and in her dealings with the police that she was forced into a reality much harsher than the one she was used to, and she could not handle it. She invoked the right to remain silent and for months did not say a word. By doing so, she let her underlings, Elnekaveh and Oski, take the rap for actions that were mainly hers. There was obviously something selfish in her silence. But it also came from her inability to cope with the situation. She also became famous over the past two years for her enigmatic smile. Many of her critics in the media interpreted the smile as one of arrogance. But Blumenthal is not arrogant. The smile was more than likely a disguise for the utter confusion and helplessness she felt inside. After all, how could a woman like her be in a place like this? When push came to shove, Blumenthal did not have moral compunctions about spending NIS 12,000 to host a few powerful political hacks. She was ready to take this kind of action to survive politically. Even after the affair, she continues to be a nice person. But she has shown that she does not have the stature or character required of a true public leader. She is by no means the only one. Many of her colleagues aren't even nice. But she got caught.