The public’s ability to return to form in the upcoming elections and stop pursuing leaders who belligerently undermine their own parties will essentially determine the future of our nation. We undoubtedly have a challenge ahead of us, but if we overcome it, we may succeed in restoring the healthy infrastructure that was put in place years ago and had already begun bearing fruit.
The time is ripe for change. The public is eager for a different leader, someone who will cater to basic and important needs such as education, industry, employment and health. This coming April we will finally have an opportunity to bring about a turnaround in the order of priorities according to which our country is currently being run.
On Moral Integrity, Collegiality, and Loyalty to the Party
I have no interest in talking about the ever-growing list of accusations against the various candidates, we hear about them daily in the media. Nor do I wish to go into the investigations being conducted against some of them. Right now, I am more concerned with integrity. It is so rarely discussed, and yet it can tell us so much about the candidates and their core human values; values such as collegiality, trustworthiness, fairness and loyalty, which are often absent from political conduct.
In order to find the moral standard in our leadership, we must look back. History shows us that the very leaders who adopted these values and acted upon them made powerful political moves that changed the country for the better. But let us focus for a moment on those who have relinquished these values in their search for power. It is important that we understand who they are and where their interest-driven conduct puts us, so that we will do all we can to get out of the hole they have thrust us into.
Benjamin Netanyahu: In Favor of a Direct Election Behind the Party’s Back
In the early 1990s, when the Likud government was headed by Yitzhak Shamir, a public movement emerged for the enactment of a constitution and the direct election of a prime minister. Among the advocates of this movement were Benjamin Netanyahu and the late Yitzhak Rabin. Their goal was to increase the prime minister’s authority in order to establish his position as first among equals. Netanyahu and his personal assistant, who operated from New York, were very active behind the scenes on this issue.
A few months before the elections, a vote was held on the matter, and Netanyahu, in opposition to his party and behind Yitzhak Shamir’s back, voted for the bill, proving without question, that he had no problem sacrificing his collegiality and loyalty to the party. Not long after, in the run up to the 1992 elections, Yitzhak Shamir struggled to survive a challenging political battle between the Likud Party he headed and Yitzhak Rabin’s Labor Party. Key members of his party, such as Roni Milo and Dan Meridor, stood by his side and tried to strengthen his position. But Netanyahu, who was then a deputy minister in the prime minister’s office, was conspicuously absent; he simply disappeared.
Understanding this move doesn’t require a cunning political mind or an in-depth analysis, it is plain as day – Netanyahu wanted Shamir’s term to be over, and that is exactly what happened. That year, Rabin was elected as prime minister and Netanyahu began paving his way to the top. He won the primaries and became the leader of the Likud.
Ehud Barak’s Double Game
A similar thing happened four years later in 1996, again during the election campaign. There were two main candidates for prime minister at the time – Shimon Peres and Benjamin Netanyahu. This time it was Ehud Barak who undermined his party leader. His first move was to become Peres’ elections campaign manager. Once he got the job, he began to play a double game; on the one hand he supported Peres and worked to promote him, but at the same time he acted independently to advance his personal agenda.
Those who figured out Barak’s strategy understood that he secretly hoped Shimon Peres would fail so that he could take his place as head of the party, which is precisely what happened.
Where Have these Undermining Politicians Led Us?
Both Barak and Netanyahu acted dishonestly and betrayed the trust of their party leaders, and both went on to become prime ministers. Political journalist Hanan Kristal, predicted the moves of the two. As early as 1986, he wrote that the two politicians who are expected to compete against each other for power in a fierce and cruel battle, void of morals and scruple, would be Netanyahu and Barak.
We have therefore reached a point where the collegiality and political ethics of both men are clearly dubious. Now, all we need to ask is where it got them, where it took us, and whether we really want to continue following them.
So Where Are We Today?
Israel has been in rapid decline for three decades. Our infrastructures are collapsing, one by one. In recent years, incitement has become a legitimate language and dominates the public discourse. The prime minister himself incites against half of his people. We have become a country with high poverty rates and a collapsing health system. The elderly do not receive the medical care and basic support they need to grow old with dignity. The education system is a far cry from where it was in the past in terms of achievements. It’s also very far from realizing its potential in terms of nurturing the future generation.
Why are we in this situation? Because of the serious cracks in the prime minister’s character and in the perception of his role as a leader.
A Rare Opportunity to Change Direction
In the upcoming elections we have an opportunity, perhaps a one-time opportunity, to stop the deterioration. There are honest candidates who have the country’s best interests at heart; leaders who can muster wide public support, unite and turn the tide – change the face of the government, lead by example, and inspire others to follow their path.
With our help, they can bring us back to where we were in the past, when Rabin changed the order of national priorities; when the national budget was invested mainly in education, technological development and building-up Israel’s high-tech Industry.
This process was interrupted by Rabin’s tragic assassination. We now have the chance to restore the positive development of the past and stop the ongoing decline of us all.