Israelis tend to have greater trust in Arab leaders who have a "baby face," according to a study conducted by Prof. Ifat Maoz of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. In other words, there is a chance of broader national consensus over signing agreements with leaders who have round faces with smooth skin, full lips and big eyes.
The kind of face that Jordan's King Hussein had, and that his son Abdullah has (but not like that of Egypt's Anwar Sadat - with whom a peace agreement was signed ) creates a feeling among those who look at them of warmth, openness, sincerity and trust, according to previous studies. It is therefore not surprising that Israelis would like to hold negotiations with people who seem to have those characteristics. And it is also not surprising that those very same traits do not add points, in the eyes of Israelis, to those who are supposed to negotiate on their behalf with the enemy. We would like them, it transpires, to be cold, calculating, shrewd and manipulative.
Herein perhaps lies the key to the Israeli voter's confusion when he has to elect his leader. On the one hand, it can be assumed, like voters in other countries, that we are also interested in leaders whom we can trust. Openness to new ideas, ability to listen to the voters' wishes, and trustworthiness are the most important traits we seek when we have to choose the people who will conduct civilian affairs on our behalf. On the other hand, those very same leaders are supposed to outsmart our enemies, and there are not many of us who believe in sincerity, openness and warmth when we have to deal with all those who are considered enemies of Israel, whether or not they have a baby face.
A short survey of Israeli prime ministers from David Ben-Gurion to Benjamin Netnayahu today, as well as of members of the inner cabinet, will reveal that none of them had, or has, a baby face (even though one expert in facial morphology said on television that Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has a baby face that he tries to hide with a beard ). We don't look for a baby face in our leaders, but a large number of studies reveal that people tend more to choose good-looking leaders, a phenomenon that is intensifying following developments in the electronic media that make the candidates more visually accessible.
Thus, mainly in the big world, American President Barack Obama is a rock star while the former president, Bill Clinton, was a sex symbol. Previous American presidents likewise stood out because of their external appearance and their height, and for the most part also for their full head of hair. The fact that he is good looking by any standards no doubt helped the former British prime minister, Tony Blair, to overcome his rivals.
But who did we have? Netanyahu is the first politician whose appearance - he is unusually good looking in comparison to the others - has become a subject for discussion in the media. There were, and still are, some who saw in his handsome appearance and excellent English proof that in fact he is not serious, a fable created only in the television studios.
Similar allegations, being voiced much more vociferously, are now being made against Yair Lapid. It seems that in the murderous attack being launched against the former television anchor by his former media colleagues, his handsome looks, excellent ability to express himself, perfect English, skill in front of the cameras and an audience, and all those other characteristics that have made him a success story and the darling of the public are seen as defects in the political arena. And not merely because being pleasant and likable are characteristics that Israelis prefer that their enemies possess, but because Lapid is undergoing a process of reification.
Just like the blondes in the jokes, his external attributes are being presented as if they contradict seriousness. On the face of it, in so attractive a dish, nothing more than a secret blonde could live.
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now