When Will They Admit They're Wrong?

Peretz is a blatant manifestation of a well-known human and political phenomenon: People see themselves in roles for which they lack the skills.

One of the breathtaking statements by Amir Peretz, quoted in "Spider Web," a book by Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff on the Second Lebanon War, has him wondering why the air force needs both large and small helicopters. The man who was seen using binoculars with the caps still on, and who understands nothing about defense, is now challenging Ehud Barak's security and political leadership and has announced he will run against him for the Labor Party leadership.

Anyone who lines up in the race to lead Labor immediately declares he is also a candidate for the premiership, because the party aspires to lead the country. The man whom the Winograd Committee investigating the Second Lebanon War found to have "failed in performing his duties as defense minister," while holding Ehud Olmert responsible for appointing Peretz to such a sensitive post out of political exigencies, has no qualms about claiming the post of prime minister.

It is ironic that this empty arrogance comes from Peretz because he accuses Barak of being patronizing. Peretz does not blush when he says he is the one who paved the way for Barak. (In practice he competed with Barak and Ami Ayalon in March 2007 to head the party and came in third.) Barak's weaknesses are well established, but they do not absolve Peretz from the obligation of looking at his own limitations with eyes wide open: He is not suitable to steer the country. The post of defense minister was too big for him, by a few sizes, and more so the job of prime minister.

Peretz is a blatant manifestation of a well-known human and political phenomenon: People see themselves in roles for which they lack the skills. Ambition is a positive trait that drives people to significant achievements, but often it blinds them and prevents them from seeing themselves as they truly are. The Peter Principle, established 40 years ago, described the following symptom: Employees advance in the hierarchy up to the maximum level of their skills, but they fail to identify the top and aspire to reach even higher ground. When they get to that higher level, it turns out their skills fall short of the requirements.

In politics, this process is a lot less refined: A politician will never admit his mistake. He will always blame his colleagues for his failures. He will always seek a higher position. He will always believe that he is destined for greatness. He will always confuse his ability to be elected (in other words, being popular), with his ability to lead - his skill to wisely read the situation, correctly evaluate the future, and make tough decisions.

The political arena is full of people with jobs too big for their abilities, and they do not recognize this; they are not satisfied with the position they have reached and are convinced they are worthy to continue and rise in the governing hierarchy.

With a fresh approach, Peretz ran for the leadership of Labor with a new socioeconomic program he wanted to pursue. Instead of sticking to his political platform, he was enticed to ask for the post of defense minister. A separate question is whether a person who had never held a ministerial post before, and whose conduct had always been regarded as lacking seriousness and dominated by loudness, would have succeeded in meeting the complex tasks of a finance minister. It is certain in retrospect that he failed miserably at the Defense Ministry. Alas, the severe results of his tenure are not deterring him from coming back and once more aspiring to the most important position in government, where matters of defense are central.

Peretz is not alone in this. Benjamin Netanyahu, who left the Prime Minister's Bureau like a plucked chicken, is back aspiring for the job. Even his father said of his son that he is more suited to be foreign minister than prime minister. Barak, who in an unforgetable striptease between 1999 and 2001 exposed his nonexistent skills as a politician, is now once more seeking to return to the prime minister's seat. Netanyahu and Barak maneuver even though both could have made do with the honor and burden of posts cut to their measurements (Netanyahu - finance or foreign affairs; Barak - defense). Olmert, too, is in that same bracket: the Second Lebanon War proved that being a prime minister does not come natural to him; it may have been his dream job but it is certainly beyond the limits of his skills.