Warren Bennis, founding chairperson of the Leadership Institute at the University of Southern California, stated: “Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.” Our now-retired former prime minister, Naftali Bennett, exemplified Bennis’s description of a leader, and Bennett is due our collective thanks for a job well done.
Now I know that there will be a rash of comments saying:
- He was the worst prime minister in Israel’s history (no way to quantify that, of course);
- He had no right to be prime minister because he only had a handful of Knesset mandates (where does it say that you need X number to be prime minister?); or
- His government was doomed from the start (of course, all governments eventually die, but his creative attempt functioned successfully for a year beyond the expectations of many).
For me, those complaints are simply manifestations of jealousy by people who themselves wanted to be in power, but could not put the pieces together during the three failed elections prior to 2021. So instead, I choose to look at the achievements of this short-lived experiment in true democratic representation:
- The coalition that Bennett built was the most diverse of any in the history of the state, bringing an Arab party to sit at the same table with right-wingers who previously pledged never to do so.
- After years of operating without a state budget, the coalition successfully approved an operating budget.
- The Foreign Ministry, an administrative and political mess a year ago, has now been reorganized, ambassadors and consuls have been approved, and the ministry is functioning properly once again.
- Bennett and his coalition partners were able to maintain and improve Israel’s relations with the Arab world as well as engineer a rapprochement with Turkey, marked by the recent state visit of President Isaac Herzog, with full diplomatic honors.
- The government successfully balanced its security concerns, which include being dependent on cooperation with Russia, while still extending considerable support to Ukraine as it fights to limit Russian aggression.
People will always debate
People will always be able to debate whether more could have been achieved, or why those achievements are not to Bennett’s credit, and on and on. Nevertheless, as US president Harry Truman was fond of saying about himself, “The buck stops here.” So if the blame for failure is to be laid at the feet of the prime minister, then the prime minister has a right to be given credit for success as well.
We also need to be grateful to Naftali Bennett and his family for sacrificing their personal lives for the benefit of the state. His wife, Gilat, and their children deserve our thanks as well for making it possible for the prime minister to serve with a clear head.
At the end of the day, Bennett had the vision to create a coalition mosaic that represented the full spectrum of Israeli society. To do that he had to convince his coalition members to subjugate their personal animosities for the benefit of the growth of the state and its institutions.
Everyone said it could not be done, but working in tandem with the amazing Yair Lapid, Bennett pulled a coalition out of the hat, as it were, and gave us all a year of political peace. This capacity to translate vision into reality is, indeed, the true test of leadership.
Indian philosopher Sherlyn Chopra said: “In the midst of all our emotional upheaval caused by ambition, aggression, rejection, transition, addiction, limitation and competition, the one thing that remains constant within us is our deep desire to be happy.”
“In the midst of all our emotional upheaval caused by ambition, aggression, rejection, transition, addiction, limitation and competition, the one thing that remains constant within us is our deep desire to be happy.”Sherlyn Chopra
Mr. Bennett, thank you, and may you continue in your good work on behalf of all of us who live here and take pride in Israel’s achievements. And may you be happy. You deserve nothing less. ■
Sherwin Pomerantz has lived in Israel for 38 years, is CEO of Atid EDI Ltd., a Jerusalem-based international business development consultancy, former national president of the Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel, former board chairman of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies, and president of Ohel Nechama in Jerusalem.