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WANTED: Leadership

Make no mistake: Netanyahu and Liberman are burying the hatchet for personal gain, and not the good of the country

The State of Israel is in dire need of a leader, a point made ever more obvious by the headlines of the past week.

Here’s where we stand. Over the course of the last year, MK Avigdor Liberman said the following about Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu:

“Netanyahu isn’t left or right. He has no ideology.  He is the ultimate Mr. Zigzag. He may be the champion of zigzaggers.”

“He is a liar, a fraud and a crook. Those are the words I can say about our prime minister. He brazenly defrauds the people of Israel.”

“They are simply schlemiels who don’t know how to rule or manage properly. Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon are not worthy of leading the country.”

“Netanyahu should get a Nobel Prize in political charlatanism.”

Prime Minister Netanyahu did not sit quietly as Liberman attacked him, and responded via statements from the Likud party. One such statement related to Liberman’s criticism of the prime minister’s handling of defense matters:

“Liberman is trying to be a military commentator who doesn’t meet the basic standards. The only thing that has whizzed past his ears is a tennis ball. A man who never led even one soldier into battle, never made an operative decision in his life, and never sat through an entire security cabinet meeting cannot be a military commentator.”

Yet despite Netanyahu’s strong feelings about Liberman lacking military or defense credentials, the prime minister has now offered Liberman to serve as his defense minister; and despite Liberman’s belief that Netanyahu is a liar, a charlatan, and has no ideology, Liberman has accepted the offer.

And the two will now be charged with running our country together.

Can there be any clearer example of leaders making decisions for personal gain rather than the good of the country? The prime minister is giving the keys to the Defense Ministry to someone he stated he does not trust in the position, simply to insure his own political survival; and Liberman is accepting a job to work for a prime minister whom he stated clearly he does not trust — to put it mildly — simply for his own political survival and personal stature.

Similar concerns must be raised about the recent possibility of the Labor party joining the current government.  How is it possible that the same prime minister was planning to head to Cairo for a peace summit with Labor chairman MK Isaac Herzog as his foreign minister, yet the very next day he was ditching Herzog and naming the extreme-right Liberman as his defense chief?  Is Netanyahu governed by an ideology and what he believes is best for the people?

Clearly not.

Maimonides teaches in the Laws of Kings (2:6 and 3:5) that a leader must “always act with humility,” should be “compassionate and merciful to all,” and needs to busy himself “day and night” making sure that the needs of all people in the nation are being met. Jewish tradition teaches that King David was chosen to be the king based on his treatment of the sheep under his control. The shepherd David would separate the smaller sheep from the bigger sheep and “would first take the youngest sheep out to graze to enable them to eat the soft grass, then the oldest sheep to graze on the medium grass, and then the strong, adult sheep to graze on the harder grass. God said, ‘a person who knows how to give his sheep to eat, each according to his abilities, should come and shepherd My nation'” (Midrash Rabbah Shemot 2:2).

That same teaching continues and relates the following regarding Moses: “Once a small lamb ran away from the flock. Moshe chased and caught her near a shady spring. When Moshe saw the lamb drinking, he exclaimed ‘I did not know that you were running away because you were thirsty! You must be tired.’ Moshe then carried the lamb on his shoulders back to the herd. God concluded, ‘If you have compassion to lead a human being’s sheep, you shall also take care of My sheep, Israel.’”

This past week demonstrated how far we have swayed from this vision of leadership. Concern for the people? Care for the needy? Our current leaders are only thinking about themselves.

While elections are not forecast for the near future, I have no doubt that this new selfish and absurd partnership will provide us all with continuous reminders that we need a different type of leader. I hope and pray that the people of Israel wake up and recognize the ongoing damage being done to our present and future as a result of the current leadership’s lack of caring, and will search and vote for David- and Moses-like leaders, who seek to lead because of their caring nature and their passion to help others and our state.

About the Author
Dov Lipman was elected to the 19th Knesset in January 2013. He is the author of seven books about Judaism and Israel, and holds rabbinic ordination from Ner Israel Rabbinical College and a masters in education from Johns Hopkins University. He has been at the forefront of combating religious extremism in Israel and is a leader in efforts to create Jewish unity both in Israel and around the world. Former MK Lipman is invited to speak on behalf of the Jewish state both in Israel and around the world and serves as a political commentator for i24 News and ILTV.
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