An Open Letter to Bibi
Mr. Prime Minister:
I just returned from eight days in Israel. As always, it was a remarkable time, made even more incredible when I awoke each day knowing that I was in a place in which my ancestors (literally…my grandfather, my great-grandfather, my great-great grandfather) lived, a place that hundreds of generations of my ancestors prayed for and prayed to see, a place that percolates with new and ancient ideas side by side, figuring out how to make this spit of land on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean a place worthy to be called “ha-tikvah” (the hope).
One of the more interesting aspects of my eight days were the constant conversations being held amongst Israelis regarding the upcoming elections. As in the United States, everyone has an opinion! But unlike our (basically) two-party system, your parliamentary-style government lends itself to a dozen parties, all vying for seats in the Knesset.
You know all that, because you are a master politician. You understand that the only way to govern is to form a coalition – to find partners who will support your major platforms and to whom you can give way just enough of what they want and you don’t care about to make them into “partners.” That’s what you have done in the past. And that is what you are doing today.
So, why am I writing you? To ask you to change. To ask you to stop being a politician and begin to be a leader.
Israel is at a crossroads. Personally, I don’t think its existence is in danger. Israel is strong. And it can withstand the challenges of Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, ISIS, al-Queda, etc. It has never been easy for Israel. And sadly, as you know, it won’t be in the near future. But that is not what worries me.
Rather, it’s Israel’s soul. It is being challenged to it’s very core.
Even as you worry about external threats, such as Iran (which is, I assume, why you are speaking to Congress), you seem to ignore the diseases that are eating Israel internally.
It is the virus of corruption. Dozens of your “partners” and police officials and you, yourself are being/have been investigated. There is a dirtiness and unseemliness to Jewish officials acting in decidedly un-Jewish ways.
It is the cancer of prejudice. After 65 years, Israel still hasn’t figured out how to treat its Arab-Israeli citizens with equality. Yes, there are plenty of Arabs (mainly Moslem) who wish to harm Israel. But, citizens are citizens…are they not? When will you be a leader who insists that all citizens be given equal protection and equal opportunity?
It is the malady of diminished vision. In 1902, Thedor Herzl wrote, “if you will it, it is no dream.” For Herzl and the early Zionists, the establishment of Israel was a noble vision, an experiment to see if Jews – after years of being stateless – could establish a place that would – simultaneously – be that ideal Jewish and democratic land in which we might live. Look around you, Mr. Prime Minister. Does it look very “ideal” to you?
I could go on but you get the point.
The polls suggest that you are going to continue to be prime minister of Israel. I humbly urge you to not be self-serving in this opportunity. Instead, seize the moment and recognize that YOU can heal this country. Not with corruption. Not with prejudice. Not with diminished vision. Rather, by stepping forward and offering to be partners with those who want Israel to be “ha-tikvah” (the hope) for all.
It is time to dream, Mr. Prime Minister. Otherwise, Israel will continue to ail. And there will be little hope.