Mr. Obama and Mr. Netanyahu, please come to your senses
Benjamin Netanyahu is the winner of the most recent election in Israel.
The odds are that he will be asked to build a coalition and continue his premiership. I wish him well. But many are still gargling to get the yucky taste out of their mouth.
Every match-up will have a winner and a loser, whether pitcher versus batter or presidential hopefuls. But if a win is achieved through sneaky tactics or cheap moves, it salts the wound of the loser and mitigates the validity of the winner. That is what happened when the incumbent prime minister made some political statements on the eve of last week’s election.
There is a new dance craze in the Middle East. It is called the Bibi cha-cha; you step forward before the election with right-wing statements and then quickly take two steps back after it helps you win. Spin your allies round and round. Repeat.
There is a reason why Jews notoriously cannot dance. It is because we are not inclined to move forward and backwards in quick steps. We are fashioned in classrooms and synagogues to champion honesty and never to step out of rhythm only to cater to personal needs and endeavors. We are supposed to have passions and principles. Decency and morality are the core of our cadence.
Bibi’s ballet unmoored that foundation. World leaders are mad. As an unwavering Zionist, I am embarrassed. This behavior unnecessarily feeds a derisive narrative of the conniving Israeli in the marketplace. It needlessly transfers our focus from Israeli doctors healing wounded Syrian refugees and mind-blowing technology that enables the paralyzed to walk again to questioning honesty and intentionality. What a shame.
Two countries with shared values and much at stake are falling hardest victim. President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu are both hip deep in a pool of urine from their endless pissing match. The stench and volume are proving unbearable. This episode only worsens the matter, while big issues and opportunities are ignored.
It is time for both these world leaders to be as stubborn in their commitment to their countries’ alliance and future as they are in who is right and wrong.
Lest President Obama wag a finger in the face of the prime minister about cheap statements to garner votes, I would jog his memory to 2008. I was sitting a mere pitching-wedge away at AIPAC when the then Democratic presidential hopeful, Senator Obama, said to a sympathetic audience of close to 8,000 people “Jerusalem is the undivided and undisputed capital of the State of Israel.” Hours later, when he was out of the AIPAC forum and had secured the nomination, he practiced his dance moves by taking steps back and restating that the status of Jerusalem must be determined by the parties through negotiations. Another Fred and Ginger move!
The notion that all politicians lie doesn’t pass muster for me. That is not a compelling reason for speeding on the highway or deflating footballs before an NFL game. If it is wrong, then it should not happen. We are better than that. We deserve more than that. That is what it means to be a light unto the nations.
I spend oodles of time with baby boomers, generation Xers, and millennials. What all of these wide-age-gapped groups share is an unquenchable thirst for honesty, goodness, and morality from its leaders, elected and appointed. They expect police officers to uphold the law, both in and out of a uniform. They expect political leaders to craft legislation in Congress and uphold it on Main Street. When descriptions and deeds don’t jive, it erodes everyone’s trust.
I have long wrestled with whether the Jews are a people or a religion. I have come to the conclusion that we are both. That means our elected officials cannot only govern with political interests. They must have a moral compass that guides them in their decision-making. I expect the prime minister of the State of Israel to have a core set of principles that are the basis of our religion.
I cannot care less if Bibi, Buji or Tzipi choose to eat cheeseburgers or go to the beach on Yom Kippur. That is between them and God. However, I do expect elected Israeli officials to be honest, moral, and forthright. That is the foundation we all share, regardless of background or observance. It is that shared foundation that brought us all to tears after the three boys were kidnapped and murdered. It is that shared foundation that brought relief to our hearts when Gilad Shalit fell into his parents embrace again. It is that shared foundation that allows our chests to burst with pride when the IDF is the first to set up a field hospital after a natural disaster anywhere across the globe.
That foundation cannot claim to speak for all Jews while trying to stop the existential threat of a nuclear Iran or stand at the Western Wall with an Orthodox rabbi in full uniform for a photo op yet speak autonomously on the rights of Israeli Arabs and lie to capture extreme votes. It still speaks for all of us. Oh, how I wish it did not.