Re-educating our politicians

Published in The Jerusalem Post on January 17, 1999

Our prime ministerial candidates have it all wrong, heading out on the stump. Last week, Shahak shopped for votes in the shuk; Arens went to Hebron; Meridor to Dimona; and Sarah to Kiryat Shemona. Wrong direction, guys! Here’s my suggested campaign routes, educationally corrective, for each one of our would-be leaders:


* Barak to Bet El: In order to soften a bit his ‘good guys-bad guys’ standard stump speech, Ehud Barak could benefit from a visit to one of those ‘bad guy’ settlements in Samaria. Instead of “parasites”, he would find real Zionists and idealists there, people who still believe in old-style values of settling the Land of Israel, through sacrifice. People with businesses, and many hi-tech entrepreneurs, not “leeches”. He would discover highly-motivated youth committed to army service, in the best units — just like it used to be in the circles in which Barak himself grew-up.


While visiting the places he plans to de-prioritize, or “dry-up” as Yitzhak Rabin more bluntly used to say, Barak could make yet another historic apology on behalf of the Labor Party. An apology to all religious people in this country, who were collectively shouldered with responsibility for the assassination of Prime Minister Rabin by the Labor intelligentsia and party hierarchy. Failure to back away from these hyperbolic, demonizing charges – which still resonate in my ears — makes a mockery of Barak’s call for ‘One Israel’ unity.


* Shahak to the *Macolet*: Let Amnon Lipkin-Shahak wet his feet a bit at lower levels of governance, before leaping to the big leagues. Try a term as chairman of the Union of Municipal Authorities, for example, and deal with real civilians and their problems, for starters. Better yet, I think Amnon should tag along with a new oleh or local grocer as he makes his way through the line-ups and byzantine labyrinths at the Ministry of Interior or the income tax offices.


This would be a novel, useful experience for Lt. Gen. (res.) Shahak. I bet you that he has never waited in line before, anywhere, or been turned away brusquely by an uncaring clerk too busy with his coffee. Going to the shuk, again, this time for real, isn’t such a bad idea after all.


* Netanyahu to Slobodka: The mussar movement, which revolutionized yeshiva studies a century ago with an emphasis on ethics and especially humility, has fallen into disfavor in the face of modern hubris and overconfidence. Take Bibi, for example. His biggest problem is an inability to get along with anyone, even his ideological comrades-in-arms. Ego and an over-reaching self-appreciation are the root causes.


So I would send Mr. Netanyahu for a introspective examination at the Center for Meditation and Healing in Berkley; or a month at the mussar-centered Slobodka yeshiva. Or perhaps a weekend of spiritual-searching and self-abnegation at a Shlomo Carlebach *shabbaton*. Truth is always the best policy, Bibi would learn.


* Meridor to Magav: At present, Dan would make a good prime minister of civilized, well-mannered Canada or Norway. But over here, there’s several brutal realities that need facing, and our not-so-western neighbors respect toughness, not enlightenment.


So for a period of apprenticement, I would put Meridor in charge of the Jerusalem border police (Magav) or West Bank *mista’arvim* and see how well he makes out in protection of the public peace. Let him develop some calluses. Riot control experience as seasoning for a leader who will have to mercilessly put-down the next, inevitable intifada.


* Begin to Bet Yosef: There’s mutual gain to be had by pairing Benny Begin with Aryeh Deri and his boss, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. The ramrod straight and unyielding Begin would learn about ideological flexibility and the art of endless political twisting — in which Shas specializes. These are skills he’ll need in order to lead a political movement in the real world of compromises. Conversely, some of Begin’s integrity and solidity might usefully rub-off on Deri.


* Lieberman to Harvard: At the John. F. Kennedy School of Government perhaps they can teach Avigdor Lieberman something about democracy. *Any* advances they can make in this direction will be appreciated. Lieberman has a long way to go in understanding the rule of law, norms of democratic discourse and the limits of power. Need I say more?

David M. Weinberg is a think tank director, columnist and lobbyist who is a sharp critic of Israel’s detractors and of post-Zionist trends in Israel. Read more »
A passionate speaker, David M. Weinberg lectures widely in Israel, the U.S. and Canada to Jewish and non-Jewish audiences. He speaks on international politics and Middle East strategic affairs, Israeli diplomacy and defense strategy, intelligence matters and more. Click here to book David Weinberg as a speaker

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