In 1977 we had Yigael Yadin, the chief of staff-archaelogist who was supposed to save us from the contemptible conduct of the Labor Alignment and from the blunder of the Yom Kippur War. In 1984 we had Ezer Weizman, the charismatic pilot from Caesarea who was supposed to save us from the stupidity of the first Lebanon War and triple-digit inflation.
In 1999 we had Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, the noble chief of general staff from Maccabim-Reut, who was supposed to save us from being governed by the "rabble" of Benjamin Netanyahu and his ilk. In 2003 we had Tommy Lapid, the aggressive journalist from north Tel Aviv who was supposed to save us from the ultra-Orthodox and the poor.
In 2006 we had Kadima, a designer centrist party that was supposed to save us from the right and the settlements. In 2009 we had Tzipi Livni, a former Mossad agent from Ramat Hahayal who was supposed to save us from Netanyahu. And in between we had Ehud Barak, Amram Mitzna and Ami Ayalon.
In short, in the past 35 years we have had an infinite number of knights on white horses promising to be the great white hope. All of them fell into the political abyss. They did not save enlightened Israel, they buried it. They did not provide an ideological alternative to the right or the religious, nor did they provide much leadership.
The failure has been devastating. The secular Israeli elite likes to scorn the Haredim, but the truth is that from a political standpoint the ultra-Orthodox Jews are infinitely wiser than the secular Israelis. Even though their community is fragmented into various "courts," they generally close ranks before an election. Although they are wary of the Knesset, some of their representatives there carry real political weight. They are serious, disciplined and sophisticated, and promote their values most impressively.
By contrast, the enlightened tribe has been a failure in the political arena. Time after time it is captivated by the secular miracle worker of the hour. Time after time it hands out charms to its followers, making promises and whispering sweet nothings into their ears. Israel's most educated people regularly send rash, inexperienced lightweights into the Knesset to represent them. The pillars of Israel's amazing economic and cultural life have the political acumen of idol worshipers.
Livni is right: Time is running out. Israel's non-Zionist minority is growing and its productive, Zionist majority is shrinking. That makes the next election particularly important. Enlightened Israel has shot so many blanks it has only one bullet left in its chamber. If the next one misses, it is doomed. The scars left by the crash of the Dash party, Barak, Shinui and Kadima will be covered by those of the crash of 2012.
And those wounds will likely be fatal. They will extinguish whatever faint pulse of optimism that might still be beating somewhere. They will snuff out any trace of belief that change is still possible. If the next white knight proves to be a false prophet, he will smother our hope for good.
Livni, Shelly Yachimovich Shaul Mofaz and Yair Lapid have been burdened with a grave responsibility this year. They all have very healthy egos. They all carry many megabytes of personal interests and petty grudges on their respective iPads. But none of them is corrupt or foolish. They must recognize their limitations. They must each admit that they are not the Messiah. If the four are genuine patriots, they should work together. If they are genuinely fair-minded, they should make sure that only the best candidates fill the top posts in the next government. The four horsemen riding off into the sunset must make sure they do not bring about some wretched Israeli apocalypse.
No less of a responsibility falls on the potential supporters of Labor, Kadima, Meretz and Lapid. The enlightened tribe cannot allow itself to be humiliated again. It cannot send any more wretched representatives or secular Baba Salis into the Knesset.
After 35 years of folly the time has come to join forces, to recruit more forces and to bring all the forces to bear on the next campaign.
This is a emergency call-up, ladies and gentlemen. This time it's really a battle for our home.
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now