Who are you, Boujie Herzog?

We know very little about the man who might be Israel’s new prime minister come Wednesday morning.

Just how little hit me when I read a puzzling sentence by Times of Israel’s David Horovitz, in an otherwise typically perceptive article.

“Israelis might like a PM who combines Netanyahu’s experience, Herzog’s decency…” Horovitz wrote.

“Decency?!” Whoa, hold it right there, I thought. That’s an unusual accolade for a politician. What’s his evidence?

So I did 30 seconds of digging and learned about Herzog’s involvement in “Amutagate” a major political scandal in 1999 where Ehud Barak allegedly scammed US donors by diverting millions in charitable donations to Labor’s campaign funds. Herzog stonewalled the police investigation by insisting on his legal right to remain silent and to this day has refused to give any account of his role.

In 2005, the Movement for Quality Government recommended to Ariel Sharon that Herzog be barred from serving in the cabinet because of unanswered questions about the scandal.

Evasive? Certainly.

Lawyerly? Absolutely.

Sleazy? Arguably.

Criminal? Possibly.

But decent?? How could David say that?

Didn’t he see that fearless Y-Net expose of the case, demanding that Herzog come clean about his role if he wants to show the public he’s fit to be Prime Minister?

And didn’t you catch that hard-hitting Channel Two report on whether Herzog’s almost complete lack of experience in security roles might be dangerous to our safety amidst the unprecedented threats from Isis and a near-nuclear Iran that beset us?

And how about that thought-provoking Ha’aretz op-ed worrying about whether Herzog’s privileged upbringing and background might prevent him from understanding the reality of ordinary people’s lives?

Really, you missed those? Me too. Because all of the fearless, incisive, hard-hitting reporting in this campaign has gone in one direction. Which makes it not journalism, but propaganda. The media has been flagrantly negligent by shielding Herzog from any serious investigation into his background, record, character and fitness to be Prime Minister.

His name isn’t Netanyahu. That’s all you need to know, suckers.

Which leaves it to us humble citizens to do the job. My findings? In truth, there isn’t much to tell and that in itself is telling. Before politics, Herzog was a mid-level corporate lawyer in the firm his father had founded.  From 2005 to 2011 he occupied a series of ministerial positions without any particular achievements or distinction. There is a major, unaddressed scandal. Since Herzog’s creditable military service at a desk job in the 8200 intelligence unit over three decades ago, he appears to have no significant security experience. When interviewed by foreign media, his performance in defending Israel is embarrassingly inept and inarticulate.

I’ve never heard him utter a single word that is fresh, intelligent, thoughtful or arresting. Once I sat two feet from Herzog in a Knesset committee meeting and watched his interactions with other MKs. He had all the presence, charisma and command of, well, a mid-level corporate lawyer.

In short, Herzog is, so far as I can see, a grey, not particularly talented, honest, idealistic or principled political hack who is dangerously lacking in experience in facing our defence and security challenges.

Who am I to be making such summary and dismissive judgments, you may be asking with outrage? I am a voter in a democracy. It’s my job and yours too to make such judgments – especially when the media is so derelict in its duty.

If we wake up to find this mediocrity is Prime Minister on Wednesday, don’t blame the press. We are not fools or children. Even without their help, the facts here aren’t hard to figure out.

Blame instead the peculiar Israeli predilection for treating elections as a search for the party that most exactly matches the precise pigment of your socio-philosophical-ideological-spiritual outlook on the world, rather than for a leader who is actually up to the job of running the country.

More than that, put it down to our failure, amidst the feeding frenzy for change at any cost, to ask:

“Who are you, Boujie Herzog? Are you remotely fit or qualified to be Prime Minister of Israel?”

About the Author
Yedidya Julian Sinclair works in the Israeli clean tech world. Before moving to Israel he was as an economist in the UK government. In his spare time he is a writer,translator, urban tour guide and teaches Jewish texts and sources. He holds semicha, degrees from Oxford and Harvard and lives in Jerusalem with his wife and five children.
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