Beyond Belief

Beyond Belief

Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.

It is not the decision to appoint Ran Baratz to be his new head of public diplomacy that is irresponsible on the part of Netanyahu, it is that this decision is part of a pattern of unacceptable decision-making that is unacceptable. All political leaders make mistakes; some do it more frequently and others less often. The number of mistakes that Netanyahu continues to make are indeed mindboggling and question his true leadership ability. Coming just days before the Prime Minister is to meet with President Obama is insulting and embarrassing; even if he has announced he will reconsider the appointment after his trip.

What type of operation is in place in the Prime Minister’s office that let slide through an appointment of someone who called Obama an anti-Semite, said Secretary of State John Kerry had the intelligence of a twelve year old child, and—only last week—besmirched the President of Israel? As was the case when Bibi re-wrote history last month concerning the Grand Mufti and Hitler just as he was leaving for Germany; when he embarrassed Vice-President Biden when he was visiting Israel by having his Minister of Housing announce expanded housing construction in East Jerusalem; when he dissed the President and appealed to Congress on the Iran Agreement; so too this flap with Baratz.  This clearly demonstrates a Government which is sloppy in its management, porous in its vetting procedures, arrogant in its approach to friends, and embarrassing in the eyes of world. All this at a time when Israel desperately ought to be trying to clean up its political act as it becomes more and more a pariah on the world stage. 

There is one other very important note about parliamentary politics which many Israeli leaders have been able or opted to ignore; party discipline. The nature of American politics is such that the absence of party discipline is the norm; not only now when destructive chaos reigns on Capitol Hill. In most parliamentary systems—even coalition governments–the Government is generally able to control the statements and actions of its Members with strict party discipline. This explains why Members in Parliament compete to get into the Government because only in the Cabinet can Members truly exert themselves in decision-making. It also explains why Parliamentary leaders can usually assert strong party discipline on the rank and file. (This is not an excuse for what just occurred but by way of explanation.)

While the Israeli parliamentary system is better today than it was some years ago, it still lacks the discipline one would have a right to expect. It is potentially dangerous for a democratic state to have leaders who can conduct themselves in such a cavalier fashion and assume they can get away with it; regardless of the excuses. Israel deserves better leadership from its Prime Minister and to have this occur immediately before flying off to Washington is beyond belief.

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