Middle Israel: Wake up, Tzipi

Mofaz flaunts his military experience, but what does he know about the budget, the courts, teachers' pay and university tuition?

amotz asa el 88 (photo credit: )
amotz asa el 88
(photo credit: )
Dear Tzipi, As you are surely aware, your lead is narrowing. Last weekend's polls indicated that Shaul Mofaz is only two percentage points away from you, and gathering momentum. Though there are many differences between the two of you, you have one thing in common: Both of you think we are idiots. Mofaz thinks his main card is his military record. And you want us to make do with your morality, while you avoid the issues. Fortunately for you, Mofaz's strategy is embarrassingly unimaginative and anachronistic, and in fact can only have been devised by a foreigner like the campaign adviser he has hired. Using military expertise as a political ticket here and now is about as up-to-date as promising America to cancel the Prohibition. For the past 50 years, we have had scores of generals swarming through our corridors of power as bees through a hive, usually proving much better at stinging each other and stinging the electorate than at producing honey. To say that what Israel now needs at its helm is another general is to forget that generals Dayan, Sharon, Rabin and Barak gave us respectively the wars of '73 and '82 and intifadas of '87 and 2000. Mofaz can be counted on to follow suit, and in fact promises this for the record. Moreover, Mofaz and his adviser may think that a prime minister must know to deploy troops, maneuver tanks and unleash jets, but Middle Israelis - such as yourself - reject this thinking, by which David Ben-Gurion should never have become prime minister and the General Staff might as well replace the government. Tragically, you remain speechless. Hopefully, you'll soon understand the time to speak to us has arrived, and that capturing us means saying something like this: "My fellow citizens, The heroic chapter in our history is over; there is no Ben-Gurion or Begin in our midst, nor a Rabin or Sharon. Yet unlike those who see in this a sign of decline, I see in this a milestone and an opportunity. Our wars may not be over, but the time has come for a post-heroic era of civilian rule, and I intend to herald it. "Much is being said about the need for moral leadership. I obviously agree. But moral bankruptcy is not only about theft, rape and embezzlement; it is also about bravado, machismo and phony heroism. That is what happened to Judah's last Jews, who thought they knew heroism better than Jeremiah, and that is what happened to the outgoing prime minister when he ignored my advice to stop the last war in its second week, when our gains had been gained, and our losses had yet to multiply. "Sadly, he was a product of the previous era, the one in which too many politicians were either heroes or sycophants. I am not a heroine but I am also not a lackey; I am not larger than life, but I am also not too small to lack my own vision, message or conviction. I don't think wars are our calling, and I don't think we need more generals in politics. The more we will lead generals into politics, the more our generals will behave like politicians. This is part of what went wrong in summer '06. And so, if elected I'll have generals fixing the army and civilians fixing the country." THAT, TZIPI, is how your address will open. It then should unveil a domestic vision. Mofaz is a political novice. He never said anything novel, let alone profound, on the budget, our tax rates, the status of the Supreme Court, religious-secular relations, conversions, political reform, university tuition, school management or local government, to mention but a few pressing issues that are way beyond him, but deep in the realm of national leadership. And the reason he has so little to offer on non-military matters is simple: He doesn't know. You, Tzipi, do know. We saw this when you headed the State Companies Authority for Binyamin Netanyahu in the '90s, and then when you were justice minister for Sharon this decade. You know both the economy and the legal system, and you are also thoroughly familiar with the Dovrat plan, which was endorsed by a government in which you served. You should now make that commitment plain. You will also have to openly back electoral reform, in the spirit of what your colleague Menahem Ben-Sasson rightly argues - that only locally elected lawmakers will weaken the party structure that has contaminated our public arena. To convince us that you are prime-ministerial material, you must now take a stance on all the major domestic issues, and lead the debate there to the arena in which our real life is conducted every day, and where Mofaz will be as lost as an Eskimo in the Sahara. You tried to change the complexion of the Supreme Court, because you had a view about its composition and clout. What's his view? He has none. You played a role in selling the big banks. What can he tell us about the economy: Is he prepared to repeat his demagoguery about Netanyahu's reforms? If not, why? If yes, push Mofaz deeper into the populist swamp, have him repeat his shallow mantras about this thriving economy being too private, worldly and "anti-social," and make him explain just how he intends to finance the expanded child allowances he is quietly promising Shas. Soon enough Mofaz's economic ignorance will land him where Amir Peretz ended up. Corner him about the global crisis. How could he not know that a statement like the one he made in favor of attacking Iran would torch the commodity markets? What does he think about the deficit target; is it good or bad, does he even know what it is? Why is such ignorance less relevant than what he thinks is your insufficient knowledge of the military? How about educational reform: Does he believe school principals should have the power to salary and fire teachers? Or does he think this too will be solved if we bomb Isfahan to the stone age? Or conversion: Is he prepared to risk his special ties with Shas, and distance ultra-Orthodoxy from Judaism's admission process? Is he prepared to demand that their schools teach a core curriculum of secular studies in return for state funds? Taking this course will promise you victory, Tzipi, but it has a price: you must take a stand - on everything. You have to come out with a broad, deep and detailed vision, you must tell us not just how you will contrast the past, but how you will shape the future. And if this price is too high for you, then maybe this whole leadership business is really not for you. www.MiddleIsrael.com