Do not be mistaken for a moment – the picture on the right is not of a couple of likeable pensioners enjoying the sun while sitting on a lawn bench in the back garden of their retirement home. The time is January 1943 and the picture is of the two main leaders of the free world at the time – US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Britain’s Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill at their Casablanca conference where decisive strategic decisions were taken on the future of the war with Nazi Germany.
It is said that every nation brings from within it the leadership it deserves. It is also said that crises bring forth leaders. Roosevelt came to power from within the darkness of the deep economic depression of the 1930s. Churchill, from within the crisis of the failure of the appeasement policy of his predecessor Neville Chamberlin and the outbreak of the Second World War.
It is said that leaders are recognised by their deeds, not just by their speeches. Although both leaders made great and memorable speeches – Churchill with his Blood, Sweat and Tears speech and Roosevelt with his Day of Infamy speech after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour– what history will remember first and foremost is their ability to take decisions, and their determination in executing them. The decision to carry out the 1944 invasion of France was taken when estimates made by military commanders talked about 10,000 casualties on the first day of fighting on the beaches of Normandy.
It is also said that leadership is an ungrateful occupation. Roosevelt died of his illness a few weeks before Nazi Germany’s final surrender and did not live to see the Allies prevailing. Churchill was defeated by the Labour leader Clement Attlee in the July 1945 elections while the war with Japan was still going on.
Highly inspired by this picture I set out this morning to look for a deserving national leadership for the State of Israel. I started with the list of members of the 18th Knesset. I scanned it slowly, name by name. I quickly passed on the zigzag-ers and those who ‘do not leave a home’, I looked for a moment at some of the younger members and remembered that Ehud Olmert and Yossi Sarid were also young and full of promise once, from there I went through the list of Chiefs of Staff and Generals who retired from military service in recent years, former heads of Mossad and the Security Service, academics, magnates of fortune and industry, media personalities, celebrities… but I could not find national leadership.
I have therefore decided to place an add in the ‘Wanted’ section, and this is what it said:
‘A Middle Eastern state in a deep national crisis is looking for a new leadership. Suitable candidates will have a proven political and national security track record, uncompromising integrity, courage, an ability to take and carry out critical decisions, personal example, spotless honesty, humility and a far reaching vision. The role is ungrateful and its main reward is constant abuse from the media. Bonuses in brown paper envelopes are not part of the pay scheme. Those interested in the role should contact (on weekdays only – I am being instructed to add here) Mr. Shraga Hertzberg, an 84 year old pensioner and a low means holocaust survivor who, out of deep concern, had volunteered to sift through the entries and pass the details on to the appropriate authorities.’