A royal lesson for Olmert
How can a prime minister send men to battle when his own sons do not serve in IDF?
Last week we heard about Prince Harry's military service in Afghanistan. The prince was sent to one of the most dangerous fronts on behalf of Her Majesty. The royal family knows that the king's blood, even if it is blue, is no different than the blood of its other subjects.
Military service at the front is part of the ancient tradition of a nation that has the Shakespearean image of Henry V entrenched in its soul. The king fights shoulder to shoulder with his subjects on the battlefield without a crown on his head. The citizens fight alongside the king, no just for him.
It is hard to ignore the history of a great nation that for hundreds of years now has been sending the sons of its elite in general, and members of the royal family in particular, to the front. In the past 1,000 years, Britain won in practice every war where it fought for its existence. The mark it left has enabled it to achieve greatness and glory.
The moment members of the royal family can be found alongside the people during times of emergency, the ruler has greater ability to take tough decisions and send the country's finest to the battlefield, to look in their eyes, and to ask them, without cynicism, for blood, sweat and tears.
Jewish culture and Israeli mentality do not like kings too much, yet they always demanded royal conduct from their leadership. From the days of King Saul and his sons to the IDF's battle tradition, the sons of most leaders took part in war and on occasion died in battle.
Yet this is not the case today. These days, there is no king in Israel, but we have a prime minister who sends his people to defend their country while his own sons do not live here and do not perform their military reserve duty. So how can a prime minister draw on the moral courage to take tough decisions, which require many other good people to risk their lives or send their sons to do so?
Educate your childrenEven if the prime minister is patriotic, even if he is talented, and even if deep inside he knows there is no other way but to make the decision and is able to express this with impressive coherence, he loses one of the most important abilities of a leader at a time of crisis – the moral fortitude to pay the required price in order to bring about victory.
On occasion, the question is raised whether our leaders must be former military commanders. I do not believe that all our leaders must be generals, but history teaches us that most great leaders served as fighters and commanders who later continued, in spirit, to play a constant part in the war on the existence of the state.
We should say this: Mr. Prime Minister, our generation is familiar with and understands the heavy price exacted by fighting. We experienced it a year and a half ago and we are ready to defend our homeland and defeat the enemy with the clear knowledge that this will always come with a price, and a heavy one at that. If you wish to lead us to the test facing us, display the courage that should be exhibited by any leader, and particularly an Israeli one, and call on your two sons to return home and join the reserve force. We will appreciate that.
The next leaders of the State of Israel must know that the challenges to face the country in the future will be greater, more complex, and crueler. Educate your children in line with the motto that in times of need, even princes find themselves among the fighters. Only this way, when we are at the front, something of you will be there with us.
Erez Eshel heads the Israeli Academy for Leadership
Thursday, March 6, 2008
00:22 , 03.06.08
Posted by DS at 2:45 AM