Middle Israel: Dan Meridor for president

Israel's next president should be the ultimate Mr. Clean.

amotz asa el 88 (photo credit: )
amotz asa el 88
(photo credit: )
Make no mistake about it: The commission of inquiry that Ehud Olmert and Amir Peretz are so heroically resisting will ultimately emerge. Revelations about our political elite's war management, personal conduct and public abuse will only proliferate in the coming weeks, and the scum filling our political air will become too dense even for this cynical, conniving and manipulative caste to cough it away. If anything, the prime minister's resistance of an external inquiry only enhances the suspicion that he actually shares the widespread impression that such a commission will indeed have what to seek, and he has got what to hide. The questions that beg answers may be numerous, but they are painfully simple: What was the order given to Dan Halutz before he sold his shares: Kill Nasrallah, annihilate Hizbullah, clear the border strip, destroy each missile launcher, shake Beirut, or maybe something else? Did the army have a contingency plan for an all-out attack on Hizbullah? If it did, was it scrutinized by Olmert and Peretz, and if so when and how? Was the execution of a well-planned offensive blocked by the politicians, as Maj.-Gen. Udi Adam insinuated? If so why, and how was the alternative devised, approved and supervised? How could basic logistical demands fail as scandalously as they did, and why were units deployed despite these shortages? Why did Military Intelligence not know of Hizbullah's ground-to-sea missiles' existence, and of its anti-tank missiles' capabilities? Did the government realize on July 12 that the North would be pounded as massively as it was, if not why, and if yes where the hell was it when a million Israelis hid in bomb shelters while another 300,000 became displaced as 4,000 rockets hit 6,000 homes? What was the aim of the expanded ground offensive after the cease-fire had been agreed, and how did it justify the deaths of 33 soldiers? And lastly, why did Olmert cancel Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni's journey to the UN, just when the cease-fire blueprint was being drafted at the Security Council? These questions will anyhow be probed ad nauseam by the media, whose work will be relatively easy; too many good Israelis were exposed to and victimized by the charlatanism that characterized much of this war, and they can be counted on to continue making their stories known, as they have indeed begun to do. A formal commission will only be more efficient for Israel, and more respectable for its leaders. Still, it may take weeks until a commission is appointed and long months until it reports, while the need in a sense of at least some change cannot wait. Moreover, a commission of inquiry can probe institutional performances and individual judgment calls, but it will not be expected to deal with the decadence and nihilism that have plagued some quarters of the Israeli elite, and which Middle Israelis believe is the real cause of our governmental eclipse. It makes sense that a ruling class with five of its senior members currently suspected of financial, political and sexual improprieties will also fail to feed soldiers behind enemy lines and shelter civilians under heavy bombardment after having previously disparaged a formidable enemy rather than study it thoroughly. It follows that something must be done already now to clean the stables, before a commission of inquiry is appointed. And the best place at which to start this is an institution that in normal times matters little, but in these abnormal times could be part of the solution, especially after it has become part of the problem: I am talking about the presidency. THE ISRAELI presidency has very rarely mattered, let alone shone, whether because its powers are limited, or because most presidents were either boring or frustrated, or because when crises erupted there was somebody out there who could handle them. Still, there was one situation in which an Israeli president stepped into the fray and helped Israel restore its moral bearings. The president was Yitzhak Navon, the time was fall 1982, and what he did was demand the establishment of a commission of inquiry following the Sabra and Shatilla massacres. In doing so Navon justified the existence of the presidency as a moral standard-bearer, and his own presence there as a man whose personal integrity and moral intuition were beyond question. Our current situation demands just that kind of president, but Moshe Katsav is in no position to pose as such. Under investigation for alleged sexual harassment of women who worked under him along the years, Katsav is not just living on borrowed political time, but also encapsulates all that is ill about a political system that has lost its moral compass and become rotten to the core. The question, therefore, is not whether Katsav can rise to the occasion, but who should replace him. ISRAEL'S NEXT president should be the ultimate Mr. Clean, one whose personal rectitude, public stature and political impartiality will be such that he will be prepared to take a stand when one will be demanded, and the public will be prepared to hear it. Under normal circumstances this individual could have come from academia, industry, the arts, the rabbinate or any other quarter of our life. Now, however, we need someone the politicians will not be able to bamboozle, in other words someone who is a product of the political system, and as such knows intimately all of its shticks, but at the same time has not been plagued by its diseases; someone who is smart, conscientious, experienced, independent and straight as a ruler. In today's political system there is only one such name that comes to my mind: Dan Meridor. The former finance and justice minister who started off as Menachem Begin's cabinet secretary is one of the most moral, thoughtful, erudite, patriotic and modest people who ever entered Israeli politics. Meridor would never be caught disparaging an enemy or improvising a grand strategy, let alone fooling around with secretaries, concocting crooked real-estate deals or taking care of his personal stock portfolio while the national interest is pounding on the window. This is exactly why he eventually became anathema to so many politicians, who eventually showed him the door from which he proceeded to quietly head the Jerusalem Foundation, practice law and discreetly participate in various strategic forums. President Katsav's confidants are putting on a brave face, insisting he will emerge unscathed from the probe in which he has become entangled. Logic, however, suggests his time is up, and justice - considering the number of women who complained about him to the press- demands that he resign, even if he manages to survive the legal side of his situation. Right now he is exactly the kind of president we don't need. We need Dan Meridor.