TheMarker's annual issue devoted to the 100 most influential people in the Israeli economy is being distributed this week. Journalistic lists of this kind are a way of drawing attention, but they are also a mapping of sorts of the men and women who in the coming year will influence the developments in the economy in general, and in its various sectors. It is a forecast; and as we have seen, even good forecasts sometimes prove false.
Two events that are shaping our present and will shape our future took place since last year's list of the 100 most influential people was released. Last year, the list's editors assumed that Israel would have at least one more year under Ariel Sharon's stewardship, and he topped the group of 100. They did not take into account the risks of age and health, and they did not take into account the war. The manifestation of these two risks, and what followed in their wake, resulted in this year's editors being unable to identify a clear leadership for the economy and the country. They put a question mark at the top of the list, with the headline: "Wanted: a Leader."
The war exposed what was repressed, and also created a new reality. This reality will wield a major influence over the country and the economy; and even if the economy gets back onto its feet quickly, and even if the executives in the various sectors excel and succeed, this new reality will be with us all the time; and to a certain extent, it will be the most influential factor in the year to come, and perhaps even the years to follow thereafter.
We must strive and hope that at the end of the year, the list of influential people for the coming year will be headed by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. If this happens, it will mean that he managed to translate this new reality into a strategic agenda and a course of action that will grant him the leadership and influence Israel needs.
When Yitzhak Rabin decided to adopt the Olso initiative, he said Israel had a 10-year window until the region was nuclearized, 10 years in which to reach peace agreements with its neighbors. This was a strategic outlook, which led to the decision that had a major influence over the country and the economy. The fact that the path to the fulfillment of Rabin's strategic vision is sometimes roundabout does not derogate from the validity, indeed the critical validity, that Rabin's vision has now too. If Olmert learns that lesson from the shock Israel went through a month ago, he has a chance to head the list next year, and in the years thereafter.
Thus, the coming year will be one of complex tests. Israel is a country with risks, but also great opportunity. The prime minister's test, if he manages to muster the courage and resolve to provide Israel the leadership it needs, is to exploit the opportunity the country now faces.
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