THE ISRAEL REPORTNovember/December 2000
Sharansky for Prime MinisterBy Sherwin Pomerantz
(December 18) - The political insanity to which all of us have been subjected over the past four years - during which time we watched two successive prime ministers operate with the primary goal of saving their own political hides - leads one to believe that there must be, and that we deserve, another alternative. I also believe that, and that alternative is Yisrael Ba'aliya's Natan Sharansky.
He is a true modern Jewish hero who, for all the years he spent in the gulag and for the decade and a half he has been in Israel as well, has been the only voice which both espoused principles and stood on them when tested.
Sharansky's experience in the former Soviet Union is well documented and need not be repeated here. Suffice it to say that even though he was not raised in a traditional Jewish home, and in spite of the fact that religion per se was outlawed in the Soviet Union, a flickering flame of Judaism and Jewish history continued to burn in his soul, and when tested, he stood up to defend that flame.
Who can forget Sharansky's parting words to the Soviet court as he was about to be led away to prison, "Next Year in Jerusalem," the same words that Jews have uttered at every moment of joy and sadness for 2,000 years?
And after Sharansky's arrival here, unlike so many of his compatriot prisoners of Zion, he did not slink into the background of Israeli society, but understood the role for which he was destined: to be a leader of the Jewish people. Sharansky paid his dues, served in the IDF, had his car stolen, and struggled to improve his Hebrew... all elements of becoming an Israeli, just as the rest of us did who moved here from other countries.
On the political side, Sharansky organized a new party, Yisrael Ba'aliya, put together a party list, and stunned the establishment by winning sufficient seats in the Knesset to command two ministerial positions: His first was as minister of industry and trade.
One would think that someone who has spent a good deal of his adult life in a Russian prison, with no prior business background, would, on the surface, be totally unfit for such a position. But Sharansky is a fast learner. He persevered, surrounded himself with competent advisers and, as most honest people in the know will admit, he did an admirable job in that position, garnering the respect of his co-workers for his dedication to the task and his ability to stand on principles in the face of opposition.
In the current government Sharansky served as minister of the interior until the onset of the Camp David talks, resigning just before the prime minister went to Camp David, again on principle.
Sharansky showed, in that move, that regardless of one's religious orientation, the connection between history, the land, and the Jewish people is something that needs to be fully appreciated and acted upon, else the entire Zionist enterprise will be for naught. How can one not respect someone for such commitment to ideals?
Now, in the most critical time in the history of the State of Israel, and for the Jewish people as a whole, the currently elected representatives of the citizenry find that it is not possible to band together in unity. They have no alternative but to divert the country's attention from the political crisis and go to early elections.
Under these conditions, the people must seek totally new leadership. From this writer's perspective there is only one choice: Sharansky.
What does he bring to the table? First and foremost, his honesty and commitment to principles and ideals. And we know, based on past experience, that Sharansky has the mettle to adhere to such concepts for the good and welfare of the people and the nation. Secondly, he has suffered, suffered in a way few of us can imagine, and that suffering has not only made him stronger but also created a certain commonality of experience in the minds of our "peace partners" that makes him a formidable negotiator on Israel's behalf.
Finally, Sharansky has demonstrated that he can garner votes, win elections, and certainly not an unimportant consideration, that he has the respect and recognition of the world's leadership.
On the basis of the facts presented here, I for one am more than willing to take my chances on someone new who has demonstrated the qualities of leadership and empowerment, rather than have a choice of others who have had their chance and muffed it.
(The writer is president of Atid E.D.I. Ltd. and is a former national president of the Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel.)
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