Monday, September 04, 2006

Prime Minister of Israel?

The Ha'aretz columnist Bradley Burston has a radical idea -- he wants Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah to run for Prime Minister -- of Israel.

Now it's official. Israel is a country without a prime minister.

This had been no more than an educated suspicion until Monday night, when Ehud Olmert effectively made the announcement. Not in so many words, of course. Instead, in a long-awaited television address to the nation, Olmert took Israel's last remaining expectations of him and kicking them in the teeth, by ducking a full-out probe into his handling of the war.

If nature abhors a vacuum, imagine how it feels at this point about Israel's senior leadership.

The titular head of state, our model for probity, is looking down the barrel of rape charges. The army chief of staff, our model for dedication and sacrifice, took a break for a bit of financial planning just as the nation's leaders were deciding whether the military was ready, plans, supplies, training and all, to go to war.

The justice minister might have helped Olmert this week, had he not resigned over suspicions that he forced a French kiss on an unwilling young woman soldier.

And then there is Olmert himself, the man who acted as prime minister from January 4, when Ariel Sharon suffered a devastating stroke, until July 12, when Olmert suffered a debilitating, evidently permanent lapse of responsibility.

After nearly six decades of existence, Israel has found itself a practical experiment in Anarcho-Zionism. Unlike its neighbor the Palestinian Authority, which is a government lacking an independent state (and a number of officials jailed by Israel), Israel has become an independent state lacking a government.


Maybe that's our answer. If assassinating or abducting the Hezbollah leader is still on the agenda, as Israeli officials maintain, why not put Nasrallah to useful purpose?

Look at the issues. Consider his record. Here is a man who is both strong and wise on security issues. He saw to it that his troops were well-prepared, well-trained, well-supplied, and and well-protected.

Nasrallah would be a new sort of Israeli leader. One who gets things done.

Here is a man who addresses social welfare needs head-on. He doesn't wait to help home-owners rebuild residences destroyed by aerial attacks. He hands out literal lump-sums, immediately, in cash.

Here is a man who delivers medical care to the needy, affordable housing to the homeless, food and even clothing to society's disadvantaged.

Here is a man who cares deeply about, and puts major emphasis on, education and youth (even if the message is one of incitement, hatred, and anti-Semitism).

Moreover, as he proved this week in admitting to having miscalculated the Israeli response in Lebanon, Nasrallah, as opposed to, say, Olmert, is a leader who, when he's made an error in judgment, can openly admit to it.

For more than 20 years, Israeli prime ministers have come to office pledging to be leaders for all the people, only to exacerbate existing divides and create new ones.

Why not tap the one leader who has managed to unite the Israeli people as has no prime minister in memory?

Thanks to billmon.

Of course, it is fascinating to see how the Israeli left and right have joined ranks in their opposition to Hezbollah following Hezbollah's retalitory rocket attacks against Israel. Remember, in almost six years of niggly you-shoved-me-first low level fighting over the Israeli-Lebanese border, only six Israeli civilians died from border violence. As I said before, that's six too many, but it was hardly a real threat.

But once Israel launched the July attacks to stop it, Hezbollah retalitated in force, killing perhaps a few dozen Israelis (mostly Arab-Israelis) in just a few weeks. In the face of enemy aggression, both the Lebanese and Israelis put their political differences aside and closed ranks against the attacker -- regardless of whether the attacker was the aggressor or not. This oh-so-very-human habit just goes to show the futility of trying to win hearts and minds via warfare.

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