About 150 years ago, quite recently, the United States was an immoral country where humans were subject to trafficking, abuse and murder, and white and black were separated. The Civil War tore the country into pieces, and in those days it was as far from the image of a cultural country and dominating power as Syria is today.
Several decades later, while the world was trying to curb the Nazi monster, the US chose to watch from afar. It was dragged by Stalin and Churchill, and eventually, especially after the blow it suffered in Pearl Harbor, it agreed to lend a hand and ended the war on August 6 1945 in the craziest act of war in history, coming from a so-called democratic and justice-seeking country.
One can take a look at the creations (not masterpieces, by the way) of Quentin Tarantino, Steven Spielberg and Oliver Stone, nod and say: What goes around comes around. Of course one can also click one's tongue and say: Who are they to complain about us and preach morals? Look what they looked like when they were our age. But one can mostly understand again that history is a sequence of insanity and wars, of wrongs and aggressions, which sometimes appear inevitable, the product of the evil inclination of the human heart from childhood – until the great leaders come along and change it.
The codename is leadership. The key is the one man, always one, who goes against the flow and against cheap populism and wins. A real leader cannot be one who checks his insurance policy every morning. The danger to his life is immediate and concrete. Lincoln and Mahatma Gandhi and Anwar Sadat and Yitzhak Rabin and many others were murdered because they dared, but they led and died so that we could live.
Just another day in the office?Little people tend to perpetuate a reality or deal with it using slogans and small, temporary and tricky solutions. The road to leadership is sometimes paved with difficult actions, violence, manipulations, even white lies – but once it reaches the finishing line it is real and pure, and therefore a reality changer as well. Sometimes the road to revolution passes through war and sometimes through peace, sometimes it claims human lives and sometimes it requires temporarily giving up on principles and promises. But the road is just a road, and the goal is what matters: Changing the sometimes destructive course of history.
In his snazzy visit to Israel, Obama tried to wake us up, mentioning the Israeli prime ministers who looked history in the eye, and history looked down. Ben-Gurion and Begin and Rabin and even Sharon. He didn't include Netanyahu on his list, but the truth is that Obama himself is not entitled to enter the hall of fame of the greatest American presidents just yet either.
In order to get there, these two leaders must cut the sweet talk and start working. They should not settle for nonchalantly removing their jackets, but should really pull up their sleeves. The pessimistic statement that it's hopeless, that the window of opportunities has been shut, that there is no one to talk to, that the Arab Spring is a nightmare filled with danger and black winter clouds – is for spoilt people and cowards, for those who have come to spend another day in the office rather than to lead; to survive rather than to make a change.
Israel is about to turn 65, but it cannot retire just yet. Looking at the world's countries, especially the US, and what they were like at our age – we can be encouraged. But the world is not stopping, reality is different and in Israel there is sometimes a feeling of going backwards rather than forward. It's time for Netanyahu and Obama and Abbas to start doing something. Maybe one day someone will make a film about them too.