Candidly Speaking: Toward a year of renewal and hope

Candidly Speaking Towar

In the course of Rosh Hashana reviews in recent years I usually concluded that the outgoing year had been in the nature of things an annus horribilis. No doubt many observers would be inclined to classify 5769 in a similar vein. Our Arab neighbors have reaffirmed their determination to bring an end to Jewish sovereignty in the region. The Iranian nuclear threat looms large. Tensions with the Obama administration have yet to be resolved. Global anti-Semitism has peaked and the UN campaign to demonize and delegitimize Israel is accelerating. The global economic crisis is still having a devastating impact, especially on the weaker sectors of the Israeli community and the Jewish world at large. To top it off, as we enter 5770 both our former president and former prime minister have been indicted on charges of moral turpitude and corruption and two former ministers were convicted and sent to jail. Ushering in a new year under the shadow of such a vast array of negatives justifiably dampens hopes for the immediate future. Yet I do hope. I am in fact optimistic about 5770 and believe that for the first time in many a year, the people of Israel are in the process of regaining a new sense of purpose. MUCH OF my hope for the future is based on the unexpected success to date of the Netanyahu government. Those who confidently predicted that extremist and conflicting demands of the smaller parties would ensure its swift collapse were proven wrong. In fact, until now, Binyamin Netanyahu has demonstrated an ability to achieve a stable leadership while simultaneously managing a highly sensitive policy involving major strategic initiatives. Moreover he has also succeeded in presenting a course of action which has effectively united the broad mass of the nation while neutralizing his right-wing critics. Far from dividing the nation as his critics predicted, Netanyahu has skillfully created a broad consensus which should enable us to confront the sensitive international political challenges with strength and greater confidence. One can of course argue over whether Netanyahu is in the process of conceding too much or too little to the Obama administration. But no objective observer can deny that, by and large, he has thus far succeeded in averting a complete breakdown with the US without capitulating on core issues. Whether he can continue sustaining this fine balancing act has yet to be determined. His real test will be at the end of the month when he meets President Barack Obama and Israel faces new onslaughts from the UN. But to date Netanyahu has confounded his critics, emerging as a responsible leader and acting judiciously at all levels. This is highlighted by the fact that the harshest criticism that the hostile media can direct against the prime minister is that his office includes a number of incompetent people and is somewhat dysfunctional. That may be true, but it is a problem that can easily be rectified and represents a far cry from the abysmal failures and limitations of his predecessors whose ongoing policies of endless unilateral concessions only further emboldened and radicalized our enemies. Netanyahu's Bar-Ilan University address in response to Obama's Cairo speech was not merely a skillful diplomatic articulation of Israel's policy, it won him the support of the bulk of the national political mainstream. This will, without doubt, enable us to more effectively face challenges from a less friendly US administration as well as more confidently confront the threat from Iran. That the American Jewish leadership is now overwhelmingly supporting the Netanyahu government and even expressing criticism of Obama's biased treatment of the Jewish state and appeasement of the Arabs is an additional positive development which could not have been achieved in the absence of Netanyahu's sensitive diplomacy. WE HAVE also been spared what could have been more painful repercussions from the global economic upheaval. Given a responsible government and the beginning of what may be a global economic recovery, despite the suffering of the weakest sections of society, we may be over the worst. There are also hopeful signals that under Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar we may see the implementation of long overdue reforms within the educational system and the reintroduction of Jewish and Zionist values designed to motivate young people to a greater commitment to their national obligations. One also senses that corruption at the public level is at long last being effectively neutralized. There are few societies in the democratic world in which a president and a prime minister are judged with greater severity than the ordinary citizen in terms of public responsibility and ethical behavior by the police and legal institutions. Although the trials which may drag on for a long time will undoubtedly nauseate us, they will also act as a beacon reminding politicians that corruption in the public arena will no longer be tolerated and that those holding office will be held to account for even minor transgressions. We are obliged to remind ourselves that most of our recent problems were self inflicted by the ineptitude of our own leaders. My optimism for the coming year is based upon the belief that when the Jewish people unite - and this is the direction toward which we are moving - we can and will successfully overcome our challenges. Hopefully, the leaders of Kadima will overcome the selfish motivations which dissuaded them from joining the Netanyahu government, and they will soon reenter the government, bringing about a genuine unity coalition which is desperately needed during these challenging times. As we enter 5770, we have every reason to give thanks and pray that our dreams for peace and security will come closer to realization, although we should be under no illusion that genuine peace will be realized only when our neighbors are reconciled to living in harmony with a Jewish state. Until that day comes we must remain strong and resilient. Rosh Hashana is a time to review our status as a people. We must constantly remind ourselves that despite all the problems facing us, we still remain the most blessed generation of Jews in 2000 years of exile and persecution. We must ensure that our children and grandchildren appreciate the miraculous progress we have achieved as a nation which only 60 years ago suffered the most devastating horrors and mass murder to become transformed into a modern industrial state capable of defending itself. In short, we have every reason to overcome our dark moods and give thanks to the Almighty for the incredible progress the Jewish state has achieved since its inception. We must also constantly remind ourselves that despite the awesome challenges still confronting us, we are today an empowered people, a haven for Jews seeking refuge from oppression from all corners of the world and with the help of the Almighty, responsible for our own destiny. Israel still represents the greatest success story of the century.