Text size

When Julius Caesar - at least in Shakespeare's version - expressed his wish to be surrounded by "men that are fat; sleek-headed men and such as sleep o' nights," it is doubtful that he intended for them to stand at the head of a state or in positions of political leadership. He saw such people in the role of courtiers, those advising and whispering in his ear, perhaps assuming that their taste for the good life and their moderate demeanor would hold in check their cunning and ambition.

Our nation appears to partake of this prejudice, and has even advanced it: At least for now, it wants "fat men who sleep at night" as Caesar, too. In the so-called "elections" in the Labor party, they pushed aside Avraham Burg - the antithesis to that desirable fatness, actually a man who resembles Cassius, at least according to the suspicious description of Julius Caesar: "Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look; He thinks too much: such men are dangerous .... Would he be fatter."

Either way, with the "election" of Benjamin Ben-Eliezer as chairman of what-is-left of the Labor party, a historic precedent has actually been set: not really in the fact that "for the first time a Sephardi was elected to the head of the Labor Party," as the weekend papers reiterated with a certain tone of paternalism but in the fact that the two central positions of political power are now occupied by two persons who are... well... how can we describe this in deference to political correctness? "Challenged feather weights?" "Lacking an ascetic appearance?" "Not Laurel and Hardy, but more like Hardy and Hardy?"

Like Yakhin and Boaz - the pillars built by Solomon at the Temple - Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Defense Minister and Chairman of the Labor Party Benjamin Ben-Eliezer are poised to carry on their not-too-skinny shoulders the harsh reality of our lives. Their physical appearance would not be worth mentioning were it not such a dominant - even attractive at this time - element of their political personas as they themselves, over and over, mention in the good-natured humor that the two men share.

After all, after his "election," it was Benjamin Ben-Eliezer who said in a "speech" to "his friends" in "the party": "Physically, I have broad shoulders. But I will need your help."

In other words, as those who know also acknowledge, it was not necessarily the weight of the ideas that brought him to the top of power. Rather it another part of his physiognomy, the low center of gravity in personality and/or appearance that broadcast physical stability in these days of rattling and confusion. Indeed, the public regards with suspicion the famous skinny ones "who think too much," like Burg or Shlomo Ben-Ami, or "those with a hungry look," like Shimon Peres. At least until times get better (or become unbearable), the people avails itself of a somewhat teddy bearish leadership - the sort that looks like it rolled to the top more than climbed to it. The kind that can console: not in spite of - but mostly because - it's a leadership that lacks a clear message or a relevant agenda. At least it emits a degree of warm, roundish calm: "Arik's" humor, "Fuad's" slaps-on-the-back pals' club .... Indeed, in such cold and stormy days, in which we have reverted to a second childhood, it seems that the nation wants just one thing: To roll up under the duvet with its teddy bear.