By LIAT COLLINS
I wonder, post-US elections, if there is an adult alive in the Western world who can't quote at least a few lines of Martin Luther King's famous "I have a dream" speech. The Hebrew version - "yesh li halomâ€¦" has been played over and over since Barack Obama's victory. And for obvious reasons. Apart from the way it now resonates with an entirely new power, Obama's own catchphrase: "Yes we can," by comparison seems like child's play. In fact, the slogan is used by Bob the Builder who asks: "Can we fix it?" ("Natzliah letaken?") and receives the answer: "Yes we can," translated into Hebrew simply as "Ken, ken, ken" - yes, yes, yes.
A good speech (ne'um) or political slogan (sisma politit) should survive the years.
David Ben-Gurion's "hagidu ken lazaken" ("Say yes to the old man") fared better as a slogan than Ben-Gurion's candidacy the last time he ran for prime minister. Ben-Gurion had some great quotes, however, like: "In Israel, in order to be a realist you must believe in miracles."
Ben-Gurion's protege Shimon Peres must have felt it was a miracle when he finally was elected president. For years he was haunted by the incident when he asked: "Ani loozer?" ("Am I a loser?") and was answered in the affirmative.
Similarly, Knesset member Limor Livnat rather foolishly asked a room full of Likud central committee members in 1997: "Were we elected to suck up to you and give out jobs?" (Ha'im nivharnu kedei lelakek lachem velehalek jobim?). The resounding ken, ken, ken left her, well, speechless. Incidentally, she used the quasi-English "jobim" to imply a derogatory nature, but the party members were obviously more interested in perks than semantics.
The dishonorable Deputy Prime Minister Haim Ramon (Kadima) will be remembered for forcing a French kiss on a girl soldier the day the Second Lebanon War broke out. Presumably he'd preferred to be recalled as the author of the "whale" speech. Nothing tongue-in-cheek about this, it became one of the most memorable and most quoted speeches in local political history. In 1994, Ramon livened up a Labor Party convention by telling the old-timers: "Like a whale which has lost its sense of direction, you storm the beach - storm it again and again - and you want to commit suicide" ("Kmo leviatan hame'abed hush kivunâ€¦").
Yitzhak Rabin, speechwise, will be remembered for his "ani anavet" ("I will navigate") victory speech and his moving address when receiving the Nobel Peace Prize. But probably, if he hadn't been tragically assassinated, his Knesset speech comparing Golan Heights residents opposed to withdrawal to "spinning propellers" (propellerim) would be sounded with a bite now and again.
Ehud Barak accepting the job (or, in correct Hebrew, misra) of prime minister in 1999 promised to be the leader of "E-v-e-r-y-o-n-e" (k-o-o-l-a-m). His election campaign also gave us the "old lady in the corridor" (ha'isha hazkena baprozdor) at Nahariya hospital, who became a (barely living) legend.
Whatever goes wrong, a politician will almost inevitably blame the media. No one gave the media such bad press as Bibi Netanyahu. After being mercilessly bashed by journalists, he took revenge, cheerleading a room full of party hacks into chanting rhythmically "hem mefahadim" ("They are afraid") which made this writer reluctant to face his supporters armed only with a laptop.
Sometimes one misses the days when politicians (or their aides) produced if not memorable speeches, at least ones you could listen to. Nowadays, too many wannabe leaders think that if they shout loud enough we'll understand. Also, it would make a change not to hear the word "change" (shinui) for a while. And I think we can safely say the people is undivided on the overuse of the word together (yahad) - even if fostering national unity should be way up there on the agenda of those who have finished campaigning in hospital corridors and are ensconced in the corridors of power.
Menachem Begin, for example, could excite without overstimulating and Golda Meir, while no great orator, had some wonderful one-liners: Asked about the country's military successes, she responded: "Our secret weapon? No alternative."
One of the political cliches used by winners and losers Right, Left and Center is "Ha'am amar et dvaro" ("The people have had their say"). While it takes the average person less than a minute to quietly have their say in the ballot box, you can bet that when any political figure starts with a sentence "Ha'am amar et dvaro" it is leading up to a long speech.
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