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Dec 18, 2012

Can Someone Offer a Vision for Israel’s Future?

A Guest Post by Dr. Harold Goldmeier, Ramat Beit Shemesh Israel

The writer is a former Research and Teaching Fellow at Harvard University where he received his doctorate. He served in the administrations of three U. S. Governors, is a business management consultant with a personal interest in education and NGOs.

As an oleh chadash, a new immigrant to Israel, I am not an expert on anything Israeli, but I already have an opinion on everything. I am particularly at a loss trying to moor to any one party standing for election to the Knesset, the first time I have the honor to vote here. It seems each party platform addresses foreign affairs and one or two other narrow issues of personal pleasure.
As an invitee to the Jerusalem Post’s Diplomatic Conference in Herzliyah on December 12th, I came away empty handed after speeches by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni among others. They are two of the three candidates for leadership positions in the next government despite Mr. Lieberman’s subsequent resignation as Foreign Minister.
Neither one expresses a vision for Israel in the next decade at a time when voters crave inspiration. We live on the sizzle not the steak. Israeli politicians don’t seem to get it.
Listening to and reading about their reasons for running for the Knesset, I am struck by how all of them focus on the past to set the pace for the present offering too little vision of Israel’s future. They are trapped in the miasma of the Palestinian conflict, and the tension and trappings associated with international relations.  Voters want to hear something about their dreams for the future of the nation. They are not energizing young people or anyone else for that matter.
The Conference was my first live exposure to Mr. Lieberman. He is not the mulligrub, bandersnatch I picture him to be from press reports and criticisms from other Foreign Ministers. Lieberman is polished, a natty dresser, and portrays a calm, not an angry demeanor while talking about war and civil control.
Lieberman seems to care deeply about the fate of Israel, but, as psychoanalyst Alfred Adler’s observed, when your only tool is a hammer, every problem becomes a nail. Lieberman’s only tool to protect Israel seems to be a sledgehammer. Lieberman envisions little chance for peace negotiations succeeding – ever.  His is a future where Palestinian aspirations are ”contained”. Israel can only keep them from getting too violent, while we try to improve their standard of living. He learned that style of governing in the Soviet Union, and look how well it works for them. The states de-unionized, and throughout the nation remaining nationalist aspirants are in revolt.
Mrs. Livini communicates better than Lieberman. She has a better command of the English language, and a rapport with an audience. She approaches the brink of a vision talking about her parents’ dreams for an Israel in which their little girl can celebrate life in peaceful coexistence with Israel’s neighbors.
Livni wants all Israeli children to prosper in a Jewish democratic state free from clashes of religions, political delegitimization, and without constant world condemnation of our people. Livni delivers her message with hubris sans arrogance, body language that adds exclamation to her words, and a constant smile that lightens up the stage.  I am under the impression from what is written and spoken about her that Livni’s time passed in politics. I doubt that is true after witnessing her energetic presentation at the Post’s Conference, but she must take her message to the next level, and talk about what life will be like in that Jewish democratic state.
I was living in Illinois when Mr. Obama announced his candidacy for President.  The U. S. was mired in three wars—Iraq, Afghanistan, and a worldwide war on terrorists.  The American people were suffering financially, emotionally, and the fabric of society seemed to be unraveling.  High watermarks were being reached everyday in the number of bankruptcies, foreclosures, unemployment, suicides and mental health breakdowns, school dropouts, and gang violence.
Things got worse into the election debate with the hardening of political viewpoints, and personal attacks.  Then the message of “Change” from the Obama camp began to sneak out. The people listened, and were inspired. Neither the details of his plan nor the value one ascribes to the concept are important here. Hope, vision, a sense of a better future, a message of good and possibilities, motivated and lifted the nation. A people’s campaign swept the country, young people in particular, and the message became the medium.
Author Deborah White succinctly remembers Obama’s message of change, and if Israel’s candidates can take a leaf from that playbook voters here might respond.
We need to hear about “guiding principles” for education, environmental policy, job creation, living wages, affordable housing availability, and better delivery of health and medical care. Israelis want to hear about an equitable tax policy for all groups. An economic policy needs to be presented that encourages small and mid-cap businesses, replaces regulations that keep the monopolistic grip on trade and commerce – a policy that shows how prosperity will touch all citizens.
Most of all, we deserve to hear from politicians how they will ensure a decent standard of living for the working middle class. Wages here do not match spending power. The cost of consumer goods approach double that in other advanced countries, while earning power is much less.  IDF veterans need a more seamless transition from active duty to civilian life. They need fewer interruptions to their careers and education post active military duty.
We need to hear about more equitable enforcement and expansion of our civil rights.  This must be complemented by a change in government policy regarding the police and their interactions with the civilian population. The people do not seem to hold them as much in high regard as they fear the police. “To serve and protect” is not the motto people who live in Israel ascribe to their police. Officer Friendly needs to make aliyah.
Finally, our heavy-handed diplomatic policy is not working for Israel. Young people want to travel freely and safely. They want to be able to wear a kippa in Copenhagen, Berlin, and Paris without fear of attack. Israelis want to attend universities overseas and international conferences where we are not the objects of scorn and ridicule and bias. Yet, we heard nothing new at the Diplomatic Conference that might inspire and promise voters a new day.  That must be next year’s conference agenda.



1 comment:

  1. "Young people want to travel freely and safely. They want to be able to wear a kippa in Copenhagen, Berlin, and Paris without fear of attack. Israelis want to attend universities overseas and international conferences where we are not the objects of scorn and ridicule and bias. Yet, we heard nothing new at the Diplomatic Conference that might inspire and promise voters a new day. That must be next year’s conference agenda."

    Sorry, but nothing that Israel does will fix that problem. Unless Israel becomes a charity case itself, filled with people with no hope and no future, it will be scorned at.

    I've heard of plenty of leaders with visions for the future, but the voters aren't voting for them.

    ReplyDelete

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