At the end of this week, we won’t know yet whether Israel’s 10th president will be a man or a woman, Mizrahi or Ashkenazi, erudite or ignorant. But we do know one thing about the next president — he or she will make us miss the ninth president, Shimon Peres.
Reuven Rivlin won’t know how to express the spirit and values of the peace-seeking Israel, and Benjamin “Fouad” Ben-Eliezer won’t know how to represent the advanced, 21st-century Israel. Dalia Itzik won’t win over the Davos magnates with nanotechnology, and Meir Sheetrit won’t recite poetry in the ears of world-renowned authors and intellectuals.
In contrast, Dalia Dorner and Dan Shechtman won’t be capable of the political acrobatics required of an Israeli president, and it’s doubtful they will bask in the love of millions in the Second, Third and Fourth Israel. None of the six candidates running up the mount to the President’s Residence in Jerusalem is endowed with the rare gamut of attributes characterizing the 91 year-old youngster they want to succeed.
Nobel Laureate Shechtman and Supreme Court Justice Dorner are indisputably quality candidates, but they too have certain limitations, and their chances of winning are not high. So if the Civil Service had issued a tender for the president’s position, at this stage he would have had to revoke it, due to the absence of a suitable candidate.
While the struggle for the 10th presidency has been more passionate than all the previous ones, the 10th presidency itself is likely to be an uninspiring one, not one that lifts the soul and expands the heart.
But among all the candidates interested in sitting in Chaim Weitzmann’s seat, the leading one is the most problematic. Reuven Rivlin is a man of many charms. He has an endearing, winning personality. But Rivlin won’t be the State of Israel’s president, but Greater Israel’s president. He will exploit the presidential institution to advance the West Bank settlement project, which he worships, and the one-state solution he believes in. Since this deep-rooted Jerusalemite is a passionate person who is true to his beliefs — he won’t hesitate to speak out and act to foil any attempt to divide the land.
So every Israeli and Knesset member who knows that Israel must deal with the occupation challenge sees Rivlin’s candidacy as a recipe for disaster. The very election of a Greater-Israel man for president will cause Israel severe diplomatic damage. His seven years in office will exact prices that will keep getting higher and create complications that will get ever -more entangled. Rivlin may be an affectionate person who respects civil rights, but his Revisionist presidency will worsen Israel’s state and status.
So the question now facing the sane majority in the Knesset is how to block Rivlin. How to prevent a scenario in which the profusion of moderate candidates splits up the moderate faction and leads to the election of a president with a radical worldview. If professor Shechtman has a real chance — fine. There’s no doubt that electing him would be an exciting, worthy choice of education, excellence and enlightenment. But if Shechtman has no chance, he and Dorner and Sheetrit must seriously consider which candidate is most likely to unite forces against the radical right’s crony. It may very well be that this candidate is not a man but a woman.
In the absence of a new Peres on the horizon — the left, center and moderate right must do their utmost in the next few days to prevent turning the President’s Residence into the Gush Emunim settlement movement’s residence.
We still don’t know whether the presidency is really necessary and whether it has a place in a generation that is incapable of bringing forth figures of Weizmann and Peres’ caliber. But one thing is certain — the seat of Israel’s sovereignty must not be put in the hands of those undermining Israel’s sovereignty. We cannot allow the personal election of a president to become a national election for Greater Israel.
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