Where are the Israeli statesmen?

A new national-security architecture has become essential.

 ‘CREDIT IS due to Israel’s old guard, proven masters of adaptation, who have managed to hold at bay Middle Eastern instability for so long.’ (photo credit: REUTERS)
‘CREDIT IS due to Israel’s old guard, proven masters of adaptation, who have managed to hold at bay Middle Eastern instability for so long.’
(photo credit: REUTERS)
‘The world is weary of statesmen whom democracy has degraded into politicians,” remarked Benjamin Disraeli. This explains part of the difficulty in producing architects rather than administrators. Leaders reflect the values of the society they originate from. In this vein, it should be no surprise that Israel’s leaders display the pragmatism so prominent in the Israeli public attitude. So there is a vicious cycle between leaders that lead and their constituencies that produce and affirm them. What stops this wheel from spinning endlessly is necessity, the fiercest of teachers.
Sometimes by being too practical one become impractical. By illustration, the boy who plugs the dam with his finger solves a problem, yet a greater challenge looms over the horizon; his pragmatism is not only near-sighted, it is dangerous.
Like the boy, Israel faces a range of challenges which its leadership has been content to manage as opposed to confront.
Status quo management, which Israel’s leadership has turned into an art, is creating and exacerbating foreseeable dangers the Jewish state will inevitably have to face.
One can begin with Israel’s strategic backdrop. Hamas is planning for the next round and is building its operational capacity in Judea and Samaria.
At the same time, Hezbollah is gearing up in the north, with a missile arsenal that is estimated to be 100 times larger than it was in 2006. This of course is all occurring as Iran’s nuclear count-down ticks away. This type of environment is ill suited for a business-as-usual mentality.
A new national-security architecture has become essential.
A survey of Israel’s domestic challenges reinforces the point. Corruption and cronyism have reached the highest levels of government, to a shocking degree, where a former prime minister and president were incarcerated at the same time last year. There is an ad hoc governing system that lacks basic checks and balances and that has led to popular dissatisfaction in which the Israeli polity is unable to translate frustration into coherent political demands. The basis for this lack of translation is found in an Israeli grassroots that is divided on core values, on the basic questions surrounding national identity.
And this is just the tip of the spear.
One should not mistake the public’s silent dissatisfaction with acceptance.
Polls overwhelmingly signal a desire for transformational politics, eschewing stability for resolution. According to a poll from 2016 commissioned by the Peace Initiative, 75% of Israelis were against partitioning Jerusalem, without which no negotiated settlement is possible with the Palestinians. Asked if they were willing to return to the ‘67 borders, 75% of Israelis were opposed. Another 74% of Israelis think the Obama deal will not stop Iran from getting the bomb. In 2015, when asked how corrupt they think Israel is, 72% of Israelis said it was either corrupt or very corrupt, according to a Midgam Institute poll. Just this month, Channel 10 reported that 51% don’t believe Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is innocent of corruption. Israelis may be divided on what exactly will be the solutions, but agree in large measure on the basic problems afflicting the nation.
Credit is due to Israel’s old guard, proven masters of adaptation, who have managed to hold at bay Middle Eastern instability for so long. And though Netanyahu’s management of all these is nothing short of admirable, Israel is not looking for a manager, but a crusader. Rather than a talented parliamentarian working from behind the scenes, Israel is in need of a statesman leading from the front and willing to put his principles into play to actually solve the intractable problems plaguing Israel for too long.
Nature abhors a vacuum, and acknowledging there is a silent majority which is too bound up in their own survival to demand more from its leaders is insufficient.
In the face of emerging threats and growing instability, Israelis have consistently expressed that they love life too much to not defend it and will not simply bend the knee in the face of adversity.
Necessity demands Israeli architects; no matter how adept Israeli leaders are at pragmatism they cannot outrun the need for transformational politics. The clock is ticking and the challenges are multiplying – will the political reformers, builders and wave makers please stand up.
The writer is the co-founder of Jewish National Initiative and a high-tech executive