Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Israel's next president

Today Israel's parliament is going to vote on who will be the next president of the State of Israel. The three candidates are Colette Avital (Avoda), Shimon Peres (Kadima) and Reuven Rivlin (Likud).

The position of President of Israel is largely a ceremonial role. As far as I'm concerned, the position is there so that when the Pope dies, the Israeli representative isn't someone as politicized as the Prime Minister of Israel. The full list of real responsibilities is here.
I'm not really sure who I'm rooting for.
Colette Avital I'm not very fond of. I'm sure she's a very nice person in real life, but her position about Jews in Diaspora and Israelis living abroad is personally offensive to me. I know I can't do the same to help Israel as Israelis living in Israel, but I do my bit in other ways. Don't pooh-pooh it. Israel needs all the help from Jews and Israelis in Diaspora that she can get. Who else will stand by Israel through thick and thin if not us?
She was the first of the three candidates to say she will be running for president if I'm not mistaken. Her slogan is very nice IMHO. It's a play on the phrase "Nesi'a Tova". The common way of writing it is נסיעה טובה, and it means "Have a good travel/trip/whatever". It is said so often nobody even notices it. She wrote נשיאה טובה, which means "Good (woman) President".
I'm not sure how much of the votes she'll actually get. She won't have the full support of Avoda since part will go to Peres. She won't get Kadima votes, they'll be for Peres and Rivlin. She won't get Likud voices. And the religious parties will probably not vote for her, for multiple reasons.
Shimon Peres is a whole other story. One the one hand I have a great deal of respect for him. He's the last one we've got who's been there from the beginning. He's given his whole life to Israel and fought, with pen and word, to secure a peace for Israel in the roads he believed were the right ones. He's given so much, yet has never been elected for the leading posts he held. When he was Prime Minister, it was either inherited (from Itzhak Rabin) or shared (with Itzhak Shamir). He ran for president last time, and was sure to win. Except he didn't. Somehow the relatively unknown Katsav got the majority of the votes. I wouldn't want him to be defeated again, not like that.
On the other hand, I have to admit, Peres is a shtinker. If he hadn't two-timed other politicians so often, maybe they wouldn't have done the same to him in the last elections. He's responsible for a big part of European anti-Israel sentiment. Did you know that in real life, Peres and Sharon are (were) very good friends? Yet he's the one who initiated the protest at Kikar Rabin following the Sabra and Shatilla massacre, and from there on he's known in Europe as the "Butcher of Sabra and Shatilla". Sharon was later judged as indirectly responsible (as in, he failed to predict correctly what would happen), but the damage was already done. For the European masses, Sharon is the one with blood on his hands, and they have no clue as to who Elie Hobeika is. Remember Jenin in April 2002? There was no massacre, even anti-Israel UN had to admit the facts. But if so, where did the word massacre come from? Peres was the first to say there was a massacre. The damage is done, Israel is viewed as a genocide machine. It doesn't matter that the issue was later "cleared up". Like the Head & Shoulders ad said in the 80's, "You never get a second chance to make a first impression". There's only one good aspect to his over-zealous Israel criticism. When he says something good about Israel, maybe people listen more, since he's also been such a hard critic as well. But that would require people to have good memories and actually care about right and wrong.
Last thing about Peres and Colette... It's a very well known secret in Israel that she's his mistress. Or at least was his mistress. Is this the sign that their relationship as such is over? I mean, if she wins, it really won't do magic for his male ego in the bedroom area. And he'll resent her (I assume). If he wins, she'll resent him. After all, she ran for the position before him (this time around).
Then comes Reuven Rivlin. I haven't got much to say about him. Listening to Knesset meetings I would hear his voice a lot, trying to be fair and just. During the disengagement plan I though it was very just of him to criticize what he thought ought to be criticized (this is what our politicians are there for, no?) but when push came to shove, he didn't back out of the Likud and didn't resign. I'm not sure how he'd hold up in international meetings with other international dignitaries and such. He doesn't quite have the presence and awe of Shimon Peres, or the dignified look of Colette Avital (who has come here quite often, she's a very good French speaker).
We'll see what the results tell us later today...

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