Warren Bennis, the founding chairperson of the Leadership Institute at the University of Southern California stated: “Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.” Our now former prime minister, Alternate 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?); and,
His government was doomed from the start (of course, all governments eventually die and 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 Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which was 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 Israeli President Isaac Herzog, with full diplomatic honors.
The government successfully balanced its security concerns, which are somewhat dependent on cooperation with Russia, while still extending considerable support to Ukraine, as the Ukraine fights to limit Russian aggression.
People will always be able to debate whether more could be achieved, or why those achievements are not to Bennett’s credit, and on and on. Nevertheless, as former 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 a 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 Prime Minister 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
Bennett, thank you and may you continue in your good work for and 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.
The writer 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 chair of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies and president of congregation Ohel Nechama, in Jerusalem.