Looking for leadership, preparing for April elections

As the April elections approach, it is imperative to challenge ourselves, as well as some of the predominant paradigms that direct the current political discourse.

An Israeli casts her ballot for the parliamentary election at a polling station  (photo credit: REUTERS)
An Israeli casts her ballot for the parliamentary election at a polling station
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Whether in our personal or professional lives, there exists an imperative to challenge ourselves and to be challenged by others, if we are to grow, evolve or improve. The alternative, prescribing that we “plow on” as we have always done, because that is how we have always done it, leads to stagnation and decay.
Challenging paradigms is a significant vehicle for continued growth, development and improvement. Whether the process results in reaffirming conceptions, renewing commitments and covenants, or enabling change if deemed necessary, it is a substantial and productive tool. As such, it should be utilized, extended and applied, in a nondiscriminatory, uncompromising manner, to all facets of life, be they personal, communal or national.
As the April elections approach, it is imperative to challenge ourselves, as well as some of the predominant paradigms that direct the current political discourse.
In order to truly make improvements, it is necessary to identify and explore possible inherent or acquired flaws in existing structures, not to irresponsibly knock them down indiscriminately or empty them of any real content without creating an alternative. For that to happen, long-term strategic planning is necessary. It is an accepted adage that “hard cases make bad law.” Truly understanding that and applying it require that the process transcend politics, implementing change unequivocally and equally to all, across political lines.
The culture of divide and conquer, preferring partisanship over collaboration, is unacceptable, if true change is to ensue. In a multiparty, fragmented political reality, its implications are at best debilitating to legislative and executive efforts, and oftentimes destructive and damaging.
Considering Israel’s reality and very real internal and external challenges, the current topics and content being raised and discussed on all media platforms are disappointing, ridiculous, at times deplorable. It is therefore up to the politically involved public to demand, seek and lead the discussion. Recognizing that knowledge, not ignorance, is power, and in order to identify the best alternative in the search for leadership, it is critical to avoid the discourse of lowest common denominator and begin raising the many real issues at hand. Each one of us has that ability, that right and that responsibility.
Expect that the alternative you vote for focus on the public rather than the personal; on fact rather than gossip; on the important rather than the irrelevant.
The well-being of democracy requires upholding, protecting and promoting the rule of law. Expect that the rule of law be applied to all, consistently and indiscriminately, including presumptions of innocence and other foundational precepts.
At the same time, based on human limitations and understanding of power and its temptations, it is legitimate to hold the view that in order to address the possibility, or even the suspicion, that power may corrupt, time limitations are of essence. It is also legitimate to expect that good leadership create succession, rather than divide and conquer any prospective future leadership, even if possibly perceived as threats. It is imperative that leaders expect to be challenged by their immediate circle, rather than isolating themselves in an echo chamber, surrounded by yes-women and yes-men.
We may indeed be “a stiffed-necked people,” which may very well be what has kept us in existence, against all odds. At the same time, we do have the right to criticize, expect and demand. However, the right to criticize comes with the tremendous responsibility to gather facts from reliable sources; to leave our silos and comfort zones, taking responsibility, each in his own way, to exercise the democratic right to vote based on informed decisions, for the future of our children and grandchildren.
All those who truly cherish democracy must drown out the background noises, in order to make personal decisions based on well-informed views, understanding and values. In a virtual reality, the politically savvy, capable Israeli public does not need digital platforms or apps to decide what’s real and what’s fake. In what has been dubbed a “post-truth” era, the only solution is to take the same kind of responsibility we expect of our elected officials. They are, after all, merely a mirror of ourselves, of the society that we are.
Do not be satisfied with catchy slogans or smug video clips. Seek out party platforms. They should all be available online shortly. Read them and understand the preliminary stance of each party regarding issues such as education; healthcare; infrastructure; security; human rights; Israel-Diaspora relations; addressing and closing social gaps; Israel’s international standing; and so forth.
There are no magic solutions, and work plans can be changed when necessary, but it is important for elected leaders to have a work plan that charts the prospective path, acknowledging that it will take time but that long journeys begin with a first step, a map and a compass. Platforms are the voters’ assurance and tools for necessary transparency and accountability. If they do not exist, voters are being denied the transparency and accountability that they deserve.
Take responsibility to challenge your own personal and professional circles of influence and empower those around you to act as change agents, to gather facts upon which to ultimately choose. Engage, form and ask difficult questions. As with anything else, the effects and implications of the digital reality being positive or negative depend largely on us. We are privileged to be living in a democratic reality, but privileges come with responsibility, and democracy can function only if all those involved do their own part. That is the power of democracy.
Amos Oz referred to the taking of such responsibility, and the responsibility we expect of our leaders, in his suggested “Order of the Teaspoon,” positing that when there is a fire, there are those who run away, without looking back at those who cannot run; there are those who begin screaming and searching for a culprit to blame; and there are those who find the nearest bucket, and if there is no bucket available, they find the nearest spoon, filling it and running toward the fire to do their part in the effort to extinguish it.
A final thought. It seems that the kind of leadership we strive for requires humility, so rare and underappreciated in our global reality, yet so necessary, as our own history indicates. When looking for leadership, place value on qualities of personal and public integrity, on vast and diverse experience, and finally on unwavering and unconditional taking of responsibility and accountability to the public good.
The writer is a PhD candidate in law at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, researching the topic of free speech as part of the “Human Rights under Pressure – Ethics, Law and Politics” doctoral program. She is a research fellow at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism, a board member of Tzav Pius, and a member of the Telem Party.