This summer the 120 members of Israel’s Parliament will need to replace President Shimon Peres with a new face as Israel’s President to the world.
Without doubt, Natan Sharansky, the hero of Soviet Jewry, and a global symbol of hope, should be the next president of Israel. Here are a few reasons why:
1) Sharansky is Global: Israel needs leaders who are relevant to the world. We should not be asking ourselves who matters most within the borders of Israel, and who has the best track record in Israeli politics. We should be asking ourselves, who has an inspiring story, who can people around the globe relate to, and who can best represent the image and values of Israel?
Sharansky is the only Presidential candidate who can tell a compelling personal, national, and global story to the world. He is the only candidate with the international moral authority to debate matters of human rights and freedom. From his inspiring story of a fight for human rights, his insightful books on global politics and democracy, and his world renowned Chess talents which he gained while sitting in a Soviet prison cell, Sharansky is more than a public figure, he is a recognized global brand that we can take pride in. It is hard to recall how many times Sharansky’s name has arisen in my conversations with non-Jewish colleagues around the globe. I cannot say the same for any of the other candidates.
At a time when extremists around the globe are still insinuating that Zionism equals racism, who better to put a face to Zionsim than a “Prisoner of Zion” who sat in a desolate Soviet jail for 9 years for the “crime” of being Jewish.
2) Worldwide Jewry: No other candidate has such a deep awareness and knowledge of worldwide Jewry. Despite his critics in Israel, Sharansky is considered a Jewish hero by millions of Jews around the world. His knowledge goes beyond his current position as Chairman of the Jewish Agency. Since he was released from a Soviet prison for being Jewish, he has studied and tried to understand world Jewry. As a matter of fact, while his recent compromise over the Kotel dispute is not perfect, it exemplifies his ability to understand the complexities of the Jewish world, from the Ultra-Orthodox to the secular, and everything in between.
3) Relations with our allies: Natan Sharansky is the only Presidential candidate who has strong ties to both the Republican and Democratic Parties in the USA. Since his release, Sharansky has been invited to the White House to meet with most US Presidents, and continually meets with senior officials on all sides of the political map. In 1986 Sharansky was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal. Furthermore, in 2006, Former President George W. Bush awarded Sharansky the Medal of Freedom, the most prestigious award in the USA. The only other non-Americans to receive both awards were Nelson Mendela, Pope John Paul II, and Mother Theresa.
At the same time, Sharansky has strong ties to the current Democratic leadership. President Barak Obama’s Former Chief of Staff and now Secretary of the Treasury, Jacob Lew, was a key figure in the fight for Soviet Jewry, and he is Sharansky’s longtime colleague. On Capitol Hill, Sharansky is admired for his resistance as a “Prisoner of Zion”, and respected for his extensive knowledge of global affairs.
4) Dynamic thinker: Sharansky does not fit into a box, which in this polarized country called Israel, makes it difficult for Israeli’s to understand him and his importance in history. Sharansky shows us and the world that Zionism and human rights go hand in hand. An advocate of spreading democracy, Sharansky has expressed strong views on managing the Palestinian conflict, while at the same time he has expressed cautious optimism of the Arab Spring’s ultimate ability to free the Middle East from evil dictatorships.
5) Leadership by Example: Sharansky practices what he preaches. Those close to him know that he can be found on the phone in the wee hours of the night trying to help a new immigrant who is in a difficult situation, or researching a matter of global importance. Whatever it may be, he works tirelessly to push forward our national cause. His Shabbat meals are a paragon of diversity, in which people as diverse as Dennis Ross and Alan Dershowitz may sit next to a new immigrant from France, or a lone soldier from the UK.
6) Short lived political life: Sharansky had a short lived life in Israeli politics. The reason is simple. Sharansly is a leader, not a politician. He took principled positions. Israel does not need politicians, Israel needs leadership. Natan Sharansky is the leadership that we need.
When the Members of Knesset cast their vote for the next President of Israel, I’m sure that they will be thinking about their political careers and interests. Hopefully, they will take a moment to consider Israel’s welfare and they will nominate Natan Sharansky.