I'm not 100 percent certain that Barack Obama is the best choice for the presidency of the United States. But if he were on the ballot here in Israel, he'd get my vote in a heartbeat.
Look at his competition. There is Ehud Olmert, one of the few attorneys amoral enough to be able to find new ways to give lawyers a bad name. If those who serve as their own attorneys have a fool for a client, Israel has managed to engage an attorney who has only himself as a client. He has proven himself to be a poor wartime consigliere, and he has shown himself as adept at sidestepping the peace process as his two main rivals:
Ehud Barak - The overweight, overage Hamlet of Israeli politics, who can neither embrace the Olmert government, nor bring himself to leave it. Once a source of hope and a lightning rod for optimism, he has become a fountainhead of disillusionment, doubletalk, and sterile machination.
Benjamin Netanyahu - The angry prophet of fiery inaction. Distrusted by the settlers as someone who sold Hebron out from under them. Distrusted by everyone else as a person who makes Hillary Clinton seem natural, inclusive, unifying, wholly sincere, profoundly trustworthy.
Now consider Barack Obama. In Maria Shriver's ringing if quirky endorsement ["If he were a state, he'd be California"] she set out a number of the precise qualities which both typify Israel in many ways, and underscore the grave deficiencies of the mercenary, arrogant men who lead us without noticing that they have no notion of their own limitations:
"Diverse. Open. Smart. Independent. Bucks tradition. Innovative. Inspiring. Dreamer. Leader."
Like the United States, this is a country at war, a nation which, if it is to resolve the conflict in which it is mired, will require both charismatic, galvanizing leadership and a willingness to look at overmarketed, vested interest-bound issues from an entirely fresh, bravely creative perspective.
Like the United States, youth in Israel is increasingly disaffected. In a country where the concept of alienation once had no meaning, young people are well within their rights to believe that their elected officials and civil servants are stone deaf to their concerns, their hopes, their needs, their futures, and their very real and powerful potential for public service.
We, the people of Israel, no less than the people of Palestine, are hostages of our history and of our present leadership. Our extremists - perhaps the only inspirational speakers we have - bludgeon us into feeling that we must resurrect a glorious past which is not only impossible to recreate, but which blocks us from moving on into a livable future.
We could use a good man like Barack Obama. We need a man who has an awareness of his own limitations, and a sense of the boundless promise of the nation and its people. We need to be uplifted. We need to heal. We need to be able to triumph over our own habits and preconceptions, our grief and our grievances, our prejudices and our blood grudges.
We need someone who can see the horizon we have long ago stopped seeking. We need to resurrect the most battered of our values, the belief in the power of reconciliation and cooperation, the faith in the sheer existence of possibility.
It is this message that informs the Obama campaign. It is a message that may be needed even more in this country, than it is in his.
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