Amram Mitzna announced last week that if he wins the race for Labor's leadership, "A day after I win, I will start a revolution. Not a change. A revolution. After I am elected, I will start managing the party and won't let it scatter in every direction" (Haaretz, May 5 ).
Mitzna appears to think that now, after having recovered from his loss the last time he led the party, he could be a "strong leader" capable of doing what he likes. Mitzna evidently believes he will sweep the party and the voters, and then the government and the entire state, and lead them wherever he desires.
But in fact, Mitzna is chiefly imitating Yisrael Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman, who has no need to fear his party's primaries, constitution or institutions and does whatever he feels like, both in the party and in the cabinet.
Mitzna is not the only candidate for Labor's leadership who pretends to be a strong leader. The other candidates have also declared, in one way or another, that they are already strong leaders, or will be strong leaders if elected.
Nor are they the only ones in Israeli politics to do so. All the current party heads pose as strong leaders. But in reality, they merely act like aggressive politicians.
This is true of Benjamin Netanyahu (Likud ), Lieberman, Ehud Barak (Aztma'ut ) and Eli Yishai (Shas ). In Kadima, where Tzipi Livni and Shaul Mofaz are vying for the party leadership, each seeks to present himself, and to run the party, as a strong leader. The main criticism aimed at Meretz's Haim Oron over his failure was that he wasn't a strong leader.
In addition to all these politicians, academics and media pundits write about the need for a strong leader who will lead the state forcefully, and they suggest changing the system of government to a presidential or quasi-presidential one. These people look back nostalgically at figures like David Ben-Gurion, Ariel Sharon and even Yitzhak Rabin, saying they made historic decisions and never sank into the political mire. But this is inaccurate. These leaders took care of their positions and their personal affairs first, not the state and all its citizens.
Both those who are acting like aggressive politicians and those who want what they call "strong leaders" have damaged and are continuing to damage Israeli democracy, which today is quite flawed. Those who see themselves as strong leaders are merely mediocre politicians, during whose terms Israel's rating as a democracy has plunged by any international standard.
But that is not the most important problem in this regard. What is truly important is that these politicians are completely ignoring the needs of Israel's public, both Jewish and Arab. They are mostly concerned with their own interests and with those of the junior politicians they hand-picked and brought into the Knesset, the cabinet and the civil service, while the public has no say on this matter - or on their policies and conduct. In this spirit, Mitzna is also seeking to pick a sizable portion of Labor's Knesset representatives by himself.
A leader must first and foremost be an honest person who does not zigzag, an intelligent person who doesn't rant and rave and doesn't react without due thought, and someone attentive to the will of the people, who are sovereign. And above all, a leader must tend to the welfare and advancement of Israel's damaged society rather than to his own survival and that of those around him, or to sectorial interests at the expense of other groups. But it appears that most Israeli politicians who see themselves as leaders are not familiar with democracy's rules, or have forgotten them.
The people must awaken from their current state of political indifference and their concern for satisfying their own personal needs. It is vital to oppose the existing approach to politics, in order to create a democracy that is effective rather than imaginary.
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