Friday, February 24, 2006

No Existential Crisis in Israel After Sharon

No Existential Crisis in Israel After Sharon

Jewish Journal North of Boston
January 13, 2006

Since Prime Minister Sharon’s stroke and surgery three weeks ago, I have seen the most wrong-headed, irrational analyses of Israel’s situation.

Based on what I saw, peace was probably finished, Israel was in a state of confusion, and the citizenry was in panic. The Washington Post’s Charles Krauthammer wrote a column headlined “Calamity for Israel,” in which he wrote: “The stroke suffered by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon could prove to be one of the great disasters in the country’s nearly 60-year history.”

Dan Gillerman, Israel’s representative at the U.N., said, “When your father is desperately ill, we his children feel very worried, nearly orphaned and very, very sad.”

I shouted at the television set: “Dayenu, enough.”

Israel doesn’t have or need a father-like head of state. The all-powerful Father-Rulers dominate countries like Cuba, North Korea and Syria.

No modern democracy — with an honestly elected parliament, an established civil service, an independent judiciary and a free press — has ever collapsed with the death of a leader.

Think Roosevelt, Kennedy, Rabin. Remember how the successors stepped in, carried on, and fought for goals in the name of the former leader.

So it will be in Israel. People will go to work and kids to school. The military will stand fast in protecting the nation. And the movement towards disengaging from the Palestinians, setting the stage for their independent state, will continue. Life will continue with no existential crisis.

Should Ehud Olmert become prime minister, he will do just fine. Most polls are showing Olmert, in politics for 32 years and second to Sharon in the newly established Kadima party, with as much, maybe a bit more, electoral clout than even Sharon.

Why not? He is seen as a good politician and a key developer of the Sharon policy of withdrawal, disengagement and building the security fence. Plus, ten years as Jerusalem’s mayor may be Israel’s best training in diplomacy and administration.
Another reasonable electoral choice, especially for a likely coalition partner, is the Labor Party, headed by Amir Peretz — immigrant to Israel as a youngster, a working farmer, former mayor of Sderot (a town in the Negev), head of the Histadrut Labor Union, and chairman of the political party Amechad.

Rather than being anxious about Israel’s future, I look forward to the election. Israel’s parliamentary system means that every vote cast has significance; parties gain Knesset seats in proportion to the votes received. In the American system, the losing votes just evaporate. That’s why, come election time, many Israelis abroad return to cast that one vote.

I invite you, especially those who have never been, to fly to Tel Aviv, see the country, stay at least two weeks and, feel how safe and sec-ure it is.

You will be glad you did. Plus, I assure you that the next time you hear all the television blather about Israel in crisis, you will stand up with me and shout, “Dayenu, enough.”

Be assured that all potential prime ministers are well aware of Iran’s march towards nuclear weapons aimed at Israel. That’s a real existential threat to be addressed by Israel’s next prime minister. Stay tuned.


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