Isaac (Buji) Herzog’s feeble image will be the determining factor in tomorrow’s election. Despite his impressive political resume and aristocratic lineage, too many Israelis believe he’s not prime minister material. Israelis aren’t ready for a wimp.
According to recent polls, Buji’s Zionist Camp party will win more seats than any other party, it remains to be seen whether he will be able to build a coalition of 61 Knesset members to gain majority rule. As we saw in 2009, the head of the largest party does not necessarily become prime minister in Israel.
The Zionist Camp’s campaign has been impressive and its list consists of many accomplished and resolute public figures and social activists, many of whom proved themselves to be effective parliamentarians during the last Knesset term.
Buji himself is a veteran politician. He has been a member of parliament since 2003 and during that time held several ministerial positions. In particular, he has been widely commended for a successful tenure as Welfare Minister.
Moreover, he’s about as close to royalty as you get in Israel. His grandfather was the Chief Rabbi of Israel and his father, Chaim Herzog, was Israel’s President and politician. Thus, Buji is no stranger to politics or the lifestyle it entails.
Still, Israelis don’t believe he’s a leader. Commentators and regular citizens alike say he doesn’t have the leadership skills or the strength or character for such a demanding job.
Campaign and media analysts have focused on his nasal, whiny voice as a major liability. To this end, a string have videos dubbed Buji’s voice to highlight this flaw. See the videos below: the first is an original. The second is the same one with a slang-filled, “popular” voice-over, and the third is another voice-over titled, “Isaac Herzog with a dubbed voice, a leader and authoritative.”
Buji’s controversial decision to join forces with Tzipi Livni may have been a political success (it increased the number of projected mandates) but it was a disaster for his image. According to body language expert Kave Shafran, Buji’s body language is feminine and Livni’s is masculine. She is taller than him. The duo thus exacerbated the Zionist Camp’s image conundrum and intensified fears that Buji is not man enough to lead the country.
Sadly, Buji faces tough competition in this category. Prime Minister (Bibi) Netanyahu is what Israelis call a gever gever, a manly man. He has a deep, booming voice. His tall and broad stature emits a commanding presence.
In the closest thing Israelis got to a leadership debate, Buji was forced to look back and up at an enormous Bibi on a screen in Channel 2’s studio. Buji looked tiny and weak. This picture says it all.
In contrast to Bibi’s aggressive style, Buji’s softer manner is seen as diplomatic. He has strong ties with Israel’s Arab communities and as a past welfare minister has a deep understanding of the plight of Israel’s poor and disempowered populations. It’s been said that he can connect disparate communities in this divided country. You’d think that’s exactly the type of leader Israel needs. But if Israelis truly believed that, Buji would win in a landslide.
Buji is not the charismatic savior we have been waiting for to lift us out of our perpetual rut, but he has what it takes; his appearance and voice shouldn’t diminish that.
I hope tomorrow my fellow Israelis will shed their preconceived notions about how a leader should look and talk and vote for the more worthy candidate.