Context matter: Angela Merkel vs Golda Meir

It is the beginning of the end for Angela Merkel. Sweden’s biggest newspaper shared a six page interview with the chancellor, which originally was printed in Die Zeit. Make no mistake – the reporter from Die Zeit obvious admiration for Angela Merkel is partly because she is a woman. The questionnaire rages from Angela Merkel importance for women in Eastern Germany- being an example for many women worldwide, a feminist – to how Merkel became the first female to define the role as chancellor from a woman’s perspective. The article from Die Zeit was quite tiresome.

It is popular today to be a critic of norms. Maybe that is one of the reasons why Angela Merkel is as loved and admired as she is. She is the leader of a powerful economy, humanitarian and a diplomatic superpower.

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The Jewish state was a little more than 20 year old when Golda Meir was inaugurated as the fourth Prime Minister.

In an environment surrounded by neighbors which mildly can be referred as ”conservative”, both in the domestic arena with rabbinical and sharia courts, as well as in neighboring countries where women constantly is degraded, Golda Meir life story is quite different from German chancellor Angela Merkel.

One who interviewed Golda Meir asked her to explain her journey to the Prime Minister’s post in which she replied: “I know nothing about leadership. I can only tell that I was going to the theater one evening and stepped into an elevator. No one in the elevator showed any intent to move. So, I pressed the button. That’s all I can say about leadership.”

Golda Meir was a Jewish socialist. She lived according to the ideals she wanted Israel to be understood by.

When Golda Meir was appointed ambassador in Moscow, she decided that no one at the embassy staff would get a salary.They were supposed to get housing, meals, cigarettes and pocket money. It was more than enough!

When the first hotel bill came, Golda reacted instantly how expensive everything was. At a staff meeting, she decided that the staff at the embassy would only have one meal a day in the hotel and prepare the rest of the meals themselves. Golda Meir along with her sister took pots and pans which they handed out to the staff.

Later on, she was offered the position as Secretary-General of the Labor Party (the position she had prior of becoming prime minister). Golda meet the reception committee when the rain was pouring down. Golda Meir came with bus 62. An amazed reception committee questioned why she did not take a taxi. Those who knew Golda says she would never spend money on a taxi.

In the government she was known to always switch off the light when she went home for the day to save the electric bill.

Being prime minister for a country that barely had turned 20 years old was quite unique. Golda Meir was one of only three women in the world to have become prime ministers. Sirimavo Bandaranaike rose to power after her husband’s assassination, and Indira Gandhi became premier of India shortly after her father’s death. But Golda Meir climbed to the top of the ladder on her own, step by painstaking step.
It has been told that Richard Nixon once said that Indira Gandhi “acted like a man, with a ruthlessness of a man, and wanted to be treated like a woman.” In contrast, Golda Meir “acted like a man and wanted to be treated as a man”, with no special concessions to her womanhood, and he appreciated that. When Golda Meir meet Richard Nixon, she smiled for the photographers and made the proper conversation but as soon as the press left the room, she crossed her leg, lit a cigarette and said: “ Now Mr President, what are you going to do the about those planes that we want and we need very much?”

While our contemporaries constantly remind us of being a critic of norms it is easy to get caught up in the tributes to Angela Merkel. Celebrated as few, Angela Merkel is not quite the original she is portrayed to be. Golda Meir was.

About the Author
In 2016 I released the Swedish book Who Says What? Voices in favor and against a Two-State Solution. The aim for the book was to be an objective and sensible voice by presenting balanced texts from respectable actors who provide different perspectives on the situation and reflect on alternative solutions. I recently released my second book Israeli Settlements: Land Politics beyond the Geneva Convention. The aim with that book is to go deeper to understand the rationale behind Israeli land policies. I am also a diplomatic Corp for the World Jewish Congress.
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