Thursday, January 23, 2003
A good bit of additional analysis on the Israeli elections from Bret Stephens at the Jerusalem Post.
[Mitzna's] approach seems rooted not just in certitude, but in the certitude of his contempt. Sharon, by contrast, seems, if belatedly, to have acquired a quality lost since the days of Ben-Gurion: unconditional love of the Jewish people. Haredi and secular. Ashkenazi and Sephardi. Settlers and Tel Avivians. He sat comfortably with Peres and Lieberman around the cabinet table. He would gladly do so again with Mitzna and Eli Yishai.
This is the essential quality Israel requires of its leaders if it is going to resolve its most basic existential dilemmas. Next to it, formulas regarding what percentage of the territories Israel will hand over, timetables for the transition and all the rest - these are matters for bureaucrats and surveyors. That Sharon recognizes the difference is what marks him, for all his faults, as the man of the hour. As for Mitzna - well, as Elizabeth Bishop put it, so filled is he with the intent to be lost that his loss is no disaster.
I don't think Sharon is the only Israeli leader to manifest this quality. I think Natan Sharansky has it. I think, for that matter, that Yossi Sarid, leader of Meretz, has it. Beni Begin has it, as does Dan Meridor, though neither of them are tempermentally fit for national leadership. Even Peres, who is a decidedly cold fish, has a little bit of it, as does Barak; Barak's problem wasn't lack of love but utter incompetence. And certainly Rabin had it in spades, even though he was horribly wrong about Oslo; he loved his people even though he had lost faith in them, and his lack of faith led to tragedy. But the bulk of the next generation of Labor leadership - not only Mitzna but Ramon, Burg, Beilin (okay, now he's with Meretz) - none of them has a natural bond with the nation. Of none of them would one say: he loves the Jewish people - all of it - unconditionally.
It's not just Labor, though, that fails on this score. I'll ignore the sectarian parties because, of their nature, you wouldn't expect them to produce national leaders. But two other major figures in mainstream parties conspicuously lack this quality of love of the whole people: Tommy Lapid of Shinui and Benjamin Netanyahu of Likud. For both of these men - as for Mitzna - only part of the nation is deserving of love, is deserving of even being considered legitimate. And that is why they cannot be allowed to sit in the Prime Minister's seat.