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Be Our Leader!: A Guide for Perplexed Jewish–Zionist Foundational
Book reviewed by Dr. Adnan Abu Amer for Al-Zaytouna Centre for Studies and Consultations
Israel has achieved major accomplishments during the past 62 years. Yet these accomplishments are subject to real dangers if Israel remains without a new leadership. A leadership which needs a “guide” for leaders on one hand and a “general rehabilitation” for the Israelis on the other hand to help them choose their leaders amidst the calamities facing their state.
With the above words, Professor Yehezkel Dror introduces his most recent book “Be Our Leader! A Guide For Perplexed Jewish-Zionist Foundational Leaders.” He tries in the book to put together two issues that seem to be different. On one hand, he presents the discussions within the Israeli research community during the last years. On the other hand, he provides recommendations derived from the essence of the historic experience of state leadership.
Through its different chapters and sections, the book stresses that for its recommendations on leadership it depends on the “Jewish-Zionist values” that are put in a political context. The recommendations are fit for leading the Jewish state in the 21st century, for they are built on the political experience of many leaders in different states and empires.
This book, according to the publisher, is the most important one written by Dror after tens of years of writing. It is important since it serves as a “ruling model” for political and party leaderships in Israel for the years and decades to come. It comes at a time of “crisis,” where the “founding generation” lost most of its members.
Title: Be Our Leader!: A Guide for Perplexed Jewish–Zionist Foundational Leaders (In Hebrew)
Leaderships of the 21st Century
The book presents information of great importance and novelty where it mentions 500 Israeli personalities, including 20 women, who will contribute to the making of the future of Israel in the 21st century. Of these 500 personalities only 10–20 are political and party leaders. This means that a minority will draw the future of their country and its orientations in the future decades.
The author presents unique historic examples for the new leaders of Israel. He mentions two enemies that had a major role in fundamental transformations for the Jewish people. Adolf Hitler is a Nazi German leader whose leadership depended on his hostility towards the Jewish people, his racial “anti-Semitic” ideas, and his execution to the holocaust. On the other hand, David Ben-Gurion is a leader who played a major role in the establishment of the “Jews State.” He assumed prominent leadership positions in the Zionist movement and its settlement institutions.
The book is based on the premise that Israel is a state which needs a historic leadership that would help it overcome the current and future strategic challenges. The author implies that these challenges determine Israel’s “survival or extinction” which is not usual for any democratic state in the world.
The author believes that the ability of Israel to surmount those challenges depends on the way of governance, decision making, domestic and external factors not to mention the internal immunity and national strength. In addition there are factors strongly related to the leader’s “personality” and “charisma” which Israel is in dire need for. Israel is in need for politicians who have major influence on the Israeli public opinion. Dror further attests that the historic responsibility is to be borne by other Israeli leaders in different economic, media and social arenas, as these can be called “the designers of the Israeli future.”
The instructions to the next Israeli leader, as posed in this book, gain their importance and magnitude from the fact that Middle East region is witnessing a tide which requires a level of harmony between the new Israeli leader and the essence of this tide. The instructions put the possibility of a large-scale war, thus demanding a historic leadership that can make crucial decisions without hesitation or recklessness.
Dror, in his rich seven chapters book, includes what he calls “necessary recommendations for the Israeli leader.” He outlines the need for gradual progress through the different levels of leadership, whether in the political, military, security or economic domains. Hence, each in his position becomes a successful leader at any task assigned to him by the state.
The Leadership Crisis
Another feature of the book is that it is a presentation of a thought-provoking theoretical debate. It brings together “historic operations, intervention decisions and practical recommendations” in an attempt to enrich the Israeli debate between the political leadership and moral criteria. In this context, the book is a unique attempt to discuss “the crisis of leadership in Israel,” an issue that the author has rich experience in.
In many of its sections, the book presents a set of criteria that are prohibited for the future leader, particularly with the accumulating files of corruption and bribery in Israeli courts. For corruption has hit the top caliber leadership while the military failure and political deadlock are gripping the successive Israeli governments.
Even though the author acknowledges the fact that what he calls “leadership crisis” is normal in all countries, he stresses that the crisis in Israel is even worse. First, there is the absence of the founding generation and secondly, the second or third generation leadership made small efforts in building it.
The author proceeds with his “invaluable” advice to future leaders of Israel. He realizes the governments’ inclination to emulate the policy of the “founding fathers” which is based on maneuver and procrastination to keep the other party hanging in the hope of reaching a solution. Still, he believes that these governments did not master this role for many reasons including weakness and the lack of sophistication and political expertise necessary to handle different political events.
The author affirms that one of the motives for publishing his book is the fact that the Israeli leadership is incapable of establishing peace with the Arabs and the Palestinians or handling the looming domestic issues. Thus, this book comes as an attempt to find a way to “save what can be saved.”
This might be in the return to the “rule of the generals.” Such return may restore the Israelis’ confidence in their leadership since they are used to leaders known for their “military achievements.” In other words, the presence of these leaders at an advanced leadership position might give the Israeli community a dose of trust and collective security, even if it was only psychological.
The Gaza War… A Model
The author gives an example for what he calls the “impotence of the Israeli leadership” by analyzing the last war on Gaza. Israel did not stop Operation Cast Lead after some days and at the same time it did not use the additional time to occupy the important sites in the Gaza Strip. Consequently, the outcome was -in the language of the military leaders- “a limited achievement with extra cost” and as Dror calls it “a pure loss.” He concludes that although this was the most planned operation in the history of Israel, it suffered from “smart planning” with “unilateral dimension.”
The author does not blame the Israeli army for the failure, he blames the political leaders. His sharp criticism is based on the study of the German historian Gerhard Ritter known as “the art of politics and craft of war.” He blames the Israeli political leaders for lacking the crucial art of politics and failing to control the military planning!
In this content, Dror says that the Israeli leadership has failed to maintain the balance between the dire need to severely hit the enemy (Hamas) and preventing the damage to its image. Hence, Operation Cast Lead repeated the fatal mistakes of the Second Lebanon War where the political leadership stood still.
A Rich Book and a Knowledgeable Author
The Israeli author Prof. Yehezkel Dror is considered to be one of the most prolific Israeli authors. At 82, he is still writing and he has enriched the Hebrew library with dozens of publications which have essentially discussed long-term strategic issues.
Dror was born in Austria and arrived into the Occupied Palestine in thirties of the twentieth century. He was engaged in military service and assumed an advanced position in the General Staff during the 1948 war.
He studied in the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and received his bachelor’s degree in law and political science. Then, he pursued higher education in Harvard and received the Israel Prize for 2005 in Administrative Sciences. Later, he served as a senior staff member of the RAND Corporation in the USA and worked as researcher specializing in public administration, decision making and international relations.
He was a member of the Winograd Commission which was established to investigate the military failure in Second Lebanon War. He was also a member of many governmental committees for formulating the decision making process in Israel. His famous books include, The Capacity to Govern: A Report to the Club of Rome, Crazy States: A Counterconventional Strategic Issue, Israeli Statecraft: National Security Challenges and Responses and others.
Al-Zaytouna Centre for Studies and Consultations, 20/4/2011