The corruption affair involving Rabbi Pinto has already been endlessly dissected, but to me the most important and astonishing facet of the affair, which has yet to be suitably noted, is the number of people who require the services of a gang of "seers" that has bloomed in our country.
Beyond that, the Rabbi Pinto phenomenon characterizes the opportunism that serves the "now-ism" culture that has spread amongst us.
Israel today is suffering from the culture of "the here and now," the culture of "no planning," the culture of "no real accountability" and the culture of "no modesty or shame" characterized by a significant sector of public representatives, public servants and tycoons. These people have built themselves up, with the help of various public representatives across the generations, by scalping public funds.
Quite a few of them rush to hear the wretched advice of those so-called "people of knowledge," who are usually adorned with the title of rabbi, and sell their deceptions by projecting an image of "seer." In other words, those who can communicate with God in hidden and mysterious ways.
If this sounds laughable or absurd to you, then let me tell you a completely true story. A very dignified minister in the previous government used to come to me from time to time, while I was still the head of the Shin Bet, with reports of a mysterious rabbi he did not want to name, who is known as a "seer" (the minister's words). The minister explained to me that this rabbi has credentials and is known as someone who can accurately predict election results, and know of terrorist attacks before they occur.
In one of these bizarre meetings, the minister told me confidentially that this credible seer told him about a "man with very bad intentions" (in those very words) who was walking around Tel Aviv "in these very moments". I'm not sure if he was suggesting or instructing me to act quickly to stop this terrorist attack, or the blame would fall on my shoulders.
After listening to him with much skepticism, but at the same time granting him the courtesy he deserved, I decided to take the risk and not send special units from the Shin Bet, the police and the IDF to search Tel Aviv for this man with "very bad intentions."
This is where the funny part of the story ends. The less amusing part is that this seers-fond minister was also a member of the most sensitive government forums, in which decisions about whether or not to go to war are made. The very likely possibility that this same minister, following the advice of his seer, made demands on matters of national security kept me up at night.
What is opportunism?The phenomenon in which tycoons and public officials rush to seek these seers' advice is not at all a marginal one. It's a part of the ever-developing culture of opportunism serving now-ism.
Opportunism is a way of life based on taking advantage of random opportunities derived from current interests. In such a culture, advice from a "seer" who claims to communicate with God is priceless.
Now-ism is the culture of the here and now, which places the goal of personal political survival above what is best for the country. This is a culture that allows many of our politicians to run for office with a platformless platform, which says nothing on any major issue that is supposed to be on Israel's agenda.
This is also a culture that takes advantage of a symbolic state visit, like that of the president of the European Parliament or the British prime minister, to create a spectacle of shallow national pride, the only purpose of which is for those politicians to endear themselves to their voters, or create a media spin around a committee and a bill proposal that manages to almost completely remove all substance from the concept of equality in sharing the national burden.
Now-ism is also politicians ignoring, due to transient political interests, incidents of racism happening right in front of our very eyes by the price tag bullies. It is a situation in which the sane political center sees how the country is being stolen right under its nose, and does nothing to ensure that it is steered by the principles that the great majority of the country holds dear.
Because of this now-ism, the sane center abandons the country to a hollow right-wing party (Likud) being controlled by a group of frenzied extremists who ally themselves to the Yesh Atid party – which is committed to reaching "equality in sharing the national burden" but has since removed all substance from this idea - and with the national-religious Bayit Yehudi party, whose ideology is determined according to one man's needs, a confidant of shady oligarchs who narrowly managed to escape the law's short arm and has since (allegedly) turned into the peace-loving moderate amongst the current government's right-wing politicians.
We can all see this, and many of us wonder or even laugh at this absurd spectacle that comes up with cynicism in all of its scenarios on "Eretz Nehederet" (the satirical TV show "Wonderful Country").
In my opinion, and in the opinion of many I talk to, this is a state that has lost its vision, direction and path, and has a leadership that feels extremely confident because it is never threatened, even when it is leading us towards the brink of diplomatic, social and economic disaster.
Guidelines for a visionIs it really so complicated to define principles for a social-diplomatic-economic-security vision that would have general consensus among the people and that would serve as a compass to lead the way for our politicians? I believe that it is actually quite simple. I will endeavor to convey succinctly what I hear from many in Israel's political center - as well as the non-extreme left and right - on the sort of state we really want.
- A sane democratic and Jewish state that is not led by rigid ideologies from the right or the left.
- A state in which national unity always stands above that of territory, and the sanctity of human life always stands above the sanctity of land.
- A state whose maintenance does not require the continuous occupation of another nation.
- A state that has a clear separation of religion and state.
- A state that treats all of its citizens with respect and dignity, including its minorities, and wages all-out war on racism.
- A state that takes care of its weak and poor citizens.
- A state that does not continue subsidizing those who do not help carry the national burden.
- A state that does not allow organized crime to rage on its streets.
- A state that holds as investment in education and knowledge as its uppermost value.
- A state that is strong as far as security is concerned, that can deter its enemies and those who wish it harm, but at the same time strives - with actions, not just hollow speeches - for peace with its neighbors.
- A state that is accepted and valued among other nations for being moral, enlightened and developed.
I personally believe there is a great majority in the country that will accept these principles as a social-economic-diplomatic-security compass.
So let us ask ourselves in the simplest manner: Do any among us believe that this is the direction in which the parties and politicians we have elected are taking us?
I believe it isn't. The fatal combination of opportunism in the service of now-ism in our country has for years been an ideal habitat for corruption, ties between capitalism and government, shallowness, lack of planning, lack of vision and the lack of daring in almost every field.
So what can we do about it?On the one hand, I'm optimistic, because even today the Zionist-center and its sane fringes on the left and right still make up the majority in this country.
On the other hand, I'm pessimistic, because that very center I'm talking about is a silent and sleepy majority watching its country being stolen from right under its very nose - and says nothing.
In order to make a meaningful change of course from the direction in which we're currently heading, all of the center parties and factions must join forces to shake off the culture of opportunism in service of now-ism, to return substance, values and morals to our society, and to determine the right set of priorities to lead this country we hold so dear in the right direction.