Leaders at Peres parley to be told they are 'inadequate'

Prof. Yehezkel Dror: Mediocre politicians not up to 21st century challenges.

Dror 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
Dror 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
When top political and public figures gather in Jerusalem this week for a gala conference, one of their hosts will have a somewhat less-than-gracious message waiting for them: You're not up to the job. Most contemporary politicians are "grossly inadequate" when it comes to leading a 21st-century world into the future, according to Prof. Yehezkel Dror, the president of the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute (JPPPI). This conclusion constitutes the basis of a document called "The New Ruler," a harsh commentary by Dror, whose organization is part of the Presidential Committee. The document will be presented and examined by world leaders, politicians, and presidents - from US President George W. Bush to Albanian President Bamir Topi - at President Shimon Peres's convention "Facing Tomorrow," scheduled to open Tuesday. Dror tries in his paper to sketch a model of a high-quality top-level political leader that the 21st century requires. "In the past, the damage a mediocre leader could have caused was not as fatal as the damage a mediocre world leader could cause in the 21st century. This century is characterized as a new era of more serious challenges, such as nuclear and biological weapons that can erase humanity, ecological changes, constantly expanding poverty, growing starvation - and on the other hand, the challenge of achieving social prosperity worldwide," Dror told The Jerusalem Post. "Most contemporary high-level politicians (and also historical ones), with all too few exceptions, are grossly inadequate for 21st-century future-weaving tasks. Therefore, as there is no substitute for high-level politicians in their critical tasks, unless their qualities can be radically improved, the future looks very bleak indeed," Dror's document reads. Dror declined to address the current criminal investigation against Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. "Israel needs a leader who combines the best sides of American President [Abraham] Lincoln and the French general [Charles] de Gaulle. Israel just celebrated 60 years of independence, and this is an achievement - but it doesn't assure the future, and this challenge requires top-level leadership," he said. Prof. Yoram Peri, head of the Herzog Institute for Media, Politics and Society at Tel Aviv University, supported Dror's claims. "There is a strong basis to the argument that there is a decrease in the level of politicians. That happens for several reasons, and it is related to Olmert's situation," Peri said. "Today, political power is not as influential as it used to be; rather, money is the main player. Corruption entanglements have ruined the political careers of politicians in other places who were considered the most dignified politicians. The dependence of the politicians on powerful, rich leaders became critical, and so less-fitting persons decided to go into politics," he said. "In addition, the constant presence of the media in political life exposes every private thing, thereby eroding the politicians' status. On top of that, the media became more critical [of the government], to the point of being cynical, leading to the decrease in the public's trust in governmental institutions - from the Supreme Court to the IDF to the politicians," Peri posited. "The media also concentrates on the headline-making politicians rather than on the hard workers. This contributes to the erosion of the politicians' stand, and that leads serious people not to choose the political life," he added. Peri said further that good people still existed in politics, and even in each party. "This is why [US Democratic presidential contender Sen.] Barack Obama attracts so many voters - because he is new, he has new ideas. Former British prime minister Tony Blair was considered a refreshing figure when he was first elected. On top of all that, people have given up on politics - they don't vote, and they are no longer politically and socially active," he said. "All these reasons damaged the level of politics and politicians," Peri concluded. Dror's answer to the challenges of the 21st century is, among other global efforts that need to be considered, a set of moral and cognitive qualities that are essential for a ruler to possess for optimal future-weaving. "That is directed mainly to leaders of the most powerful and influential countries, such as the USA, China, the European Union, Brazil, India, Russia and Egypt. There are five to 10 states whose leaders shape the world's future, and they are charged with the mission of constituting an international political elite," said Dror. When asked why other states' leaders should be willing to take such responsibility, Dror replied: "I don't think they would be willing to take this responsibility upon themselves yet, but after two global catastrophes, they will have no choice but to form a political elite that would be responsible for the future of the world." Dror was fully aware of the chance that politicians might not support his conclusions and recommendations for a better future. "But the challenge is to make the public understand who is a self-focused politician and who is public-focused, and thereby to assist the public in choosing the right person for the right position," he said.