Some of the political figures who are currently being spoken about in Israel are being put to the test that will determine if their appearance in the center of the public arena was accidental, transient episode, or if they are made of the material that puts people in the center of national life and in a leadership position.
When the political moves that have taken place over the last two years that have dragged the State of Israel to the brink of an abyss are summed up, many partners will be held responsible.
We’ve already spoken about Benjamin Netanyahu quite a bit. Netanyahu is all of the bad things that we’ve cited in the past and are still saying. He shattered all of the accepted borders of what’s allowed and what’s not forbidden in our public lives. He completely canceled the distinction between private and public, between personal and general, between intimate family issues and public discourse that’s open to everyone. This blurring of boundaries begins with the recognition that, in his own eyes and in the eyes of his wife and son, Netanyahu and the state are one single entity. There’s no gap or partition between his needs and the needs of the state.
What he wants, what he desires, is the state. This is what it needs, this is what it deserves. Just like Louis XIV, King of France, who said: “L’etat c’est moi” (I am the state), where in the state – that’s me – there is no difference between what is personal, private, family-related and everything else. I am the state. Or more accurately – the state is my private home. Everything that seems to belong in the public sector that is known to all of us is attainable and within my reach. It’s basically mine.
Netanyahu will soon be forced to go through a shaky and crushing experience. He’ll see with his own eyes as the movers come to remove him and his family from the house that belongs to the state where he has been a temporary tenant. Admittedly, it’s been a very long time, but still temporary. He will have to part with all of the attendants and flatterers that come with the temporary status. Not one of them actually genuinely likes him. All of those people who stand and applaud “Bibi, King of Israel.”
They don’t like him, they aren’t close to him and they aren’t truly connected to anything related to his cold, alienated and smug personality. And neither does he like them. They applaud him because it seems for a brief moment that through this feigned enthusiasm, they are touching something that is more than the man himself, someone who represents an existence that is larger than their boring lives that are devoid of any thrills, that are filled with distress, discomfort, fear and anxiety.
Netanyahu actually despises them, loathes them. He doesn’t have one bit of human warmth or sensitivity. He doesn’t care about the things that are the basis of a close or emotional relationship that could develop between individuals or between a person and the public that he feels part of. Netanyahu does not feel like he’s part of the public, he believes he is above it.
In this reality, some people were required to make a difficult decision. What is more important for the state – what they pledged to do before the election or what they must do now in order to free the state from the yoke of Netanyahu’s arrogant and smug tyranny?
They were preceded by people for whom fate and the national and social circumstances had placed them in a leadership position of the State of Israel. David Ben-Gurion was a man of vision. He led the state before it was established and during the crucial days following the declaration when the country was dragged into a war for its existence. His legacy was not just the difficult decisions he took during the period when the country’s very existence and its ability to fight and protect the lives of the inhabitants here were in question, but also in the concessions he had to make when he realized that existence, the internal solidarity and resilience of the tiny country were at stake. And that’s what he did at the crucial moment when he understood that we must come to terms with the division of Jerusalem, even though some people saw this as a scar that would remain with us for generations to come.
In 1956, Ben-Gurion declared that the State of Israel, which had conquered the Sinai Peninsula, was the third kingdom of Israel, but then 24 hours later he folded and agreed to a complete withdrawal of Israel’s forces from the territory because he understood that the State of Israel did not have the power to withstand the ultimatum put forth by the world powers involved. Ben-Gurion’s greatest form of expression was not his tempestuous rhetoric, but his ability to act in stark contrast to this rhetoric the moment he understood our limitations and the difficulties involved.
More than any other Israeli leader who came before or after him, Menachem Begin offered a more emphatic, exciting and moving expression of our right to the Greater Land of Israel. He also spoke of his desire to control the Sinai Peninsula, where he intended to live when he retired. But when the moment arrived, he retracted all of the poetic declarations he’d made and instead decided to completely withdraw all the way to the last centimeter of the Sinai, and refrained from annexing Judea and Samaria. It was said that Begin did so since he had no choice, that he did not have the power to withstand the domestic and international pressure he was under. Anyone who says this, though, underestimates Begin’s greatness. He was the only one who had the power to bring about peace between Israel and Egypt. Almost everything else that he’d promised beforehand was forgotten.
Yitzhak Rabin was a signatory of the Oslo Accords. If it hadn’t been for him, there never would have been a change in direction of the relationship between us and the Palestinians. If Rabin hadn’t been murdered, he would have continued promoting peaceful relations, and perhaps could have brought us peace over 20 years ago. The Oslo Accords were not Rabin’s dream, in fact he was uncertain how to proceed. He pondered whether he should follow through with his previous assertions, or should he pursue this complex opportunity that had arisen? There were multiple sponsors for this process, but there was only one individual who had the power to bring it to fruition – Rabin was this person.
IN RECENT days, a number of people have expressed a desire to lead our country: Yair Lapid, Gideon Sa’ar, Naftali Bennett, Benny Gantz, and perhaps a handful of others. The main obstacle standing in the way of these people is not the number of seats each one has garnered, but their ability to act in a way that is contrary to a large proportion of the promises they made on the eve of the election. Bennett declared that he is right-wing, though he did not specify what this actually means to him; Sa’ar stressed that he is nationalistic and opposes a two-state solution; Lapid refrained from making any comments, but made sure not to get entangled in his image as a leftist.
Now they all need to decide what really matters – what they’ve said up until now, or issues that will determine Israel’s future.
Will the national obsession and zealotry that has always prevented any overt, public and egalitarian cooperation with Israel’s Arab leadership remain more important than the ability to change direction and instead reach out to representatives of Israel’s national minority, which is an integral part of the State of Israel, and offer them to become part of a true partnership?
Bennett, Sa’ar and Lapid have a great opportunity before them. Will they show courage and the ability to do the opposite of what they promised to do and lead the country as true leaders? Whoever believes that deviation from past obligations means they have lost their personal identity, is wrong. This is actually a revelation of greatness.
They have the power in their hands. The first one needs to make a move, and the others will follow along. Those who prefer to remain comfortable and to indulge in their heart’s desires of the past will lose out on their future, and will jeopardize the future of the State of Israel.