After Time Magazine instituted its Man of the Year gimmick decades ago, the global media became infected with the disease. The person in question is a man or woman whose greatness is recognized by the system. This gimmick has more than once sent newspapers straight into the trash due to arrogance or the wrong pick. Either way, we’re talking about a shopworn novelty.
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As a country with no lack of holidays, Israel searches for its Man of the Year to the point of exhaustion. One such feverish searcher is the author of this column, who one Rosh Hashanah, instead of predicting the Man of the Year summed up the past of a lofty leader who had been elected president.
I explained why this leader was worthy of the history books. I did this when I praised Shimon Peres as the person who built the first settlement, Sebastia.
Early next morning, the president’s secretary roused me from a deep sleep: “The president wants to talk to you.” I was convinced that Peres, who often praises himself, wanted to thank me for my article. “Good morning, Shimon,” I told him happily.
Peres went ballistic, his voice hoarse with rage. “I built the first settlement? That’s what I did? Who built the nuclear reactor? Who bought the planes from France? You bastard.” He slammed down the phone. He hasn't spoken to me since, so I received a double punishment — both a curse and ostracism.
In May 2012, Time didn't choose Benjamin Netanyahu Man of the Year, but called him “King Bibi” on its cover and said he acted like a king. He had only one adviser — Bibi.
Anyone who read this kitsch would have wanted to be a fly on the wall to hear how Bibi advised Bibi to torpedo any chance of peace, and to embroil us in yet another war he would claim we won. One more victory like that and we’re finished.
And what has King Bibi done this year? He challenged the U.S. president on his home court, he fought valiantly for the natural gas tycoons for reasons unknown, he called early elections and was reelected prime minister against all odds with the help of the lie that Arabs were going to the polls in droves.
In the last few days, he has unexpectedly canceled all his holiday interviews with the media to travel with his wife to England. If that’s our Man of the Year we’re in bad shape.
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog isn’t Man of the Year and isn’t anything. He’s the people’s great disappointment. During the campaign, he was caught behind the scenes practicing curses to prove he’s a man’s man, but actually he always looks like he's sucking up to Bibi and is busy posing as a top security expert.
Shas leader Arye Dery added Makhlouf to his name as part of his subversive wave of embracing his Mizrahi heritage, but became a national figure of unparalleled importance, a decisive factor in the gas-deal affair. Yet despite the trouble he's making for Netanyahu, he continues to help the prime minister extend his perpetual reign.
Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman is wandering around like someone who can determine others’ fate, having sentenced Netanyahu to a narrow coalition that is embittering his life. It’s within his power to topple the government, but so far he has proved that when necessary he’ll do business with it (for instance, on choosing members of the Judicial Appointments Committee and supporting the gas deal).
Yaakov Litzman, until recently a successful deputy health minister, finally recognized the State of Israel this year and became a regular minister. As it looks now, the day isn't far off when the men of the year will have to believe in God.
The only person who deserves the title is Peres’ successor, Reuven Rivlin, who made it to the President’s Residence even though Netanyahu did everything he could to prevent it.
Rivlin, the Likud extremist, has turned out to be the people’s president, a seeker of peace and an impregnable wall against the forces that threaten to destroy Israel’s democracy. On top of that, the very fact he irks Netanyahu is an excellent reason to choose him Man of the Year.