There is no question that Israel’s 11th president is familiar with the Book of Proverbs and the verse “Hear, my son, the instruction of thy father.” The following is a witty ethics lesson I learned from Isaac Herzog’s father decades before the son was elected president by the Knesset in June.
It was many, many years ago. At the time I happened to be working with the late Chaim Herzog. We spent many weeks and countless hours in the same office. Among all those busy hours, there were also some lighter moments when we took a break. We chatted about this and that, exchanged clever remarks, and simply engaged in small talk.
During one of those moments, while we were still joking at the expense of various VIPs and world leaders, Herzog asked me whether I knew the best definition of a leader. I told him no.
“A leader,” Herzog said with a serious expression, “is a person who when he sees a rampaging mob runs to the front of it.” I laughed.
“And what’s an honest politician?” the fifth president asked.
“An oxymoron,” I replied proudly, citing one of Mark Twain’s famous witticisms.
“No,” Herzog said with the same serious expression. “An honest politician is a politician who after he is bought stays bought.” I laughed again.
This past Sunday night, the first night of Hanukkah, President Isaac Herzog proved that he is definitely a leader according to the definition taught to me by his father: He saw a rampaging mob and ran to the front of it. That’s what he did at the settlement of Salit, that’s what he did at the settlement of Har Bracha, and this week in the worst place of all – Hebron.
There is no better term for the rabble of messianic thugs who are suffocating Hebron, the other areas of the occupation and basically the entire State of Israel than “a rampaging mob.” For over 50 years this mob has been attacking everything in its path, violating the country’s laws, disdaining international law, sending its offshoots in all directions and never being satisfied. It has sowed everything around it with blood, wickedness, theft and shame.
And the president, the one who’s supposed to embody his country’s loftiest values (not “represent everyone” as if he were a jack of all trades) rushed to identify with, encourage, praise and glorify this mob. To grant it confirmation. To be its head. Why? Is that how he wants to win the hearts of the “base”? Is he mulling a return to parliamentary politics? Maybe he simply didn’t understand his father’s joke.
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Is Bougie also an “honest politician” according to the definition I learned from his father? It’s too early to tell. To know we have to wait for genuine progress in Benjamin Netanyahu’s corruption trial.
Rumor has it that President Herzog Jr. will grant some kind of pardon to the defendant (like the pardon Herzog’s father granted to the Shin Bet agents in the Bus 300 affair). If so, we’ll be able to say that he really is an “honest politician.” He was bought with the votes of the Bibi-ists who placed him in the President’s Residence and remains bought in order to extricate Bibi from his straits.
In any case, the president apparently hasn’t fully internalized the verse “Hear, my son, the instruction of thy father,” nor the hidden messages in his father’s jokes. Maybe another citation from the same chapter would be clearer to him: “My son, walk not thou in the way with them, restrain thy foot from their path; or their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed blood.”