A Profile in Leadership

Drew Alexander | Jun 5, 2014, 1:27 p.m.

Imagine that you reside in a tiny country about the size of New Jersey and are one of eight million citizens surrounded by other nations determined to annihilate you.

Also imagine that in your country’s 66-year history you’ve had to fight seven wars, numerous other skirmishes, and that at any time today you may be subject to a rocket attack and have at best 60 seconds to find shelter.

You’re in Israel, the only democratic state in the Middle East and a staunch ally of the United States.

It takes a particular kind of person to lead a nation that is under constant siege, someone who is both warrior and diplomat, someone who can be respected as a reliable ally and feared by an enemy, someone who has an educated mind combined with common sense, someone who values the distinctive difference between governing a nation and ruling it.

Someone like Benjamin Netanyahu.

This is a serious man with serious credentials: Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate, business executive, author and lecturer, soldier and combat veteran, counterterrorism authority, ambassador to the United Nations, minister of finance, foreign minister, and currently serving as prime minister of Israel for a second time.

Since its founding in 1948, Israel has asked for only one thing from its neighbors and the world: recognition of its right to exist. This sounds like a simple request, but is actually loaded with complexity. With contrasting cultures, conflicting religious beliefs, dissimilar forms of government, along with diverse territorial and political agendas all clashing in a Middle East stew of centuries-old hatreds and tribalism, it’s no wonder that peace in the region seems so elusive. In such a hostile environment, Israel rightfully retains a vigilant and powerful defensive posture.

“Peace is purchased from strength,” said Netanyahu. “It’s not purchased from weakness or unilateral retreats.”

What I admire about Netanyahu is that he’s a man of both substance and style. One example of his engaging public persona was his May 24, 2011, address to the U.S. Congress, saying, “You don’t need to do nation-building in Israel. We’re already built. You don’t need to export democracy to Israel. We’ve already got it. And you don’t need to send American troops to Israel. We defend ourselves.”

He went on to say, “Liberty is not paved by elections alone. It’s paved when governments permit protests in town squares, when limits are placed on the powers of rulers, when judges are beholden to laws and not men, and when human rights cannot be crushed by tribal loyalties or mob rule. Israel has always embraced this path in a Middle East that has long rejected it. In a region where women are stoned, gays are hanged, Christians are persecuted, Israel stands out. It is different.”

Unlike political ideologues who say and do anything to get elected, unlike those who lie with impunity, who cover up scandals and draw meaningless lines in the sand, Benjamin Netanyahu, like his country, stands out and is different.

If only we could have statesmen like him.

Drew Alexander, also known as “The Curmudgeon,” is a monthly columnist writing about political issues. Send comments to drewalexander@cox.net or to Drew Alexander, in care of Lovin’ Life After 50, 3200 N. Hayden Road, Suite 210, Scottsdale, AZ 85251.

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