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Gone are the days of decisive leaders
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Israel’s recycled politicians
Op-ed: While Arabs shun their leaders, Israelis disturbingly content with status quo

While Arab nations rise up to demand change, Israel seems inexplicably content with recycling the same disproven group of incompetent politicians.

 

Unfortunately, the news didn’t overly shock me: Amir Peretz recently announced his intent to run for the Labor party premiership after the departure of Ehud Barak. The same man who proved himself an absolute failure as our defense minister during the Second Lebanon War (then blamed it on his predecessors), now has the chutzpah to again seek a place of stature in the political sphere.

 

What’s even more surprising is that the Israeli public may eventually support his quest.

 

Indeed, the lack of fresh, creative and bold leadership in this country is paralyzing us. This argument holds infinite truth and Israelis need to be more cognizant of it. Gone are the days when decisive leaders such as Ben-Gurion, Shamir, Rabin and Begin took the reins to lead our country, for better or worse, into the vast unknown. Instead, we now repeatedly choose to place our future in the hands of the same politicians who have displayed criminal incapability in making the audacious decisions necessary to advance our great nation.

 

Since his re-election in 2009, Netanyahu has proven to us that he is no better suited to lead our country than he was in his previous term as prime minister in 1996. He has failed to deliver on nearly every major campaign promise he made to his constituency back in 2008, a platform that presumably allowed him to be elected in the first place.

 

In fact, Netanyahu’s disappointing performance during his second term as prime minister prompted the Knesset, sponsored by many MKs, to hold a special session a few weeks ago addressing his failures in the political, economic, and social spheres.

 

Ehud Barak, also considered a catastrophe as prime minister and increasingly inept in his current position as defense minister, has illustrated to us on numerous occasions that he is unfit to serve in a leadership role. His only major accomplishment was ending the first Lebanon war, by abandoning Israel’s ally, the South Lebanon Army, and handing southern Lebanon to Hezbollah on a silver platter.

 

Barak is relatively timid in his stance against the Iranian nuclear program, and opposed the 2009 bombing of the Syrian nuclear reactor. His management of the raid on the Turkish Mavi Marmara was nothing short of atrocious from a professional and public relations standpoint, and dealt the critical blow to what were already faltering relations with Turkey.

 

Moreover, many political analysts highlighted Barak’s role in destroying the Labor party, which he recently abandoned. Nonetheless, he’s still hanging around in the upper political echelon.

 

I won’t be surprised if Ehud Olmert, an admittedly sly politician, eventually tries to reclaim his prominence in the Israeli political system. It may be possible after the numerous corruption scandals attributed to him during his time in office disappear from the public eye. The question is whether we will allow him the opportunity to do so.

 

Time for us to wake up 

While Arab nations around us rise up against the tyranny that has suppressed them for generations, Israelis seem disturbingly content with the political status quo. Even if these uprisings ultimately fail to bring real democratic change to these countries, we must admire their valiant attempts to regain normalcy and control over their own destinies.

 

It’s true that Israel is a thriving democracy, but we still suffer from many of the same problems that afflict our Arab neighbors. Instead of emulating their demand for an end to the rampant corruption, political backtracking, incompetency and outright disgrace that plague our politicians, we end up re-electing our disproven, discredited leaders.

 

Israelis love to discuss their political views and complain about the ineptitude of their politicians, yet do very little to stimulate real change to the broken system. While Tahrir Square was overflowing, Rabin Square remained empty.

 

Beyond the myriad of social and cultural benefits of living in Israel, we possess a robust economy, excellent healthcare, and unparalleled political and religious freedoms. However, we should not shortchange ourselves by measuring our successes compared to our neighbors. Israel is still plagued by societal and political woes that prohibit her from gaining her rightful place among the international community.

 

Perhaps it’s just more comfortable or convenient for us Israelis to discuss our problems over a coffee and a cigarette at the local café. Or maybe we have become overly apathetic to the volatile political situation around us, simply because we do not feel its immediate effects or consequences.

 

However, our enviable comfort zone may quickly vanish if we fail to address the country’s most unrelenting issues: The impending Palestinian state, Israel’s growing international isolation, our deteriorating education system, the Iranian threat, Hezbollah’s rising strength and influence in Lebanon, and Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Salafists in the south, just to name a few.

 

No doubt the issues above are of enormous importance, and they will require strong, decisive leadership to confront them head on. For this reason, we should begin to sincerely ask ourselves: are we confident in our current leadership’s ability to face these challenges in a manner that will reflect the best interests of Israeli society? Can we possibly do any better? I am willing to bet that we can.

 

Avi Yesawich is currently studying to receive his MA in Conflict Resolution and Mediation at Tel Aviv University. He is a graduate of Cornell University, former IDF combat soldier, and contributor to the IDF activism website www.friendasoldier.com

 

 

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