Thursday, 14 June 2007

The President's new clothes

So Shimon Peres is the President-elect of the State of Israel. His two predecessors have both brought embarrassment on the office of the President – Ezer Weizman through his acceptance of large undeclared gifts from, and Moshe Katzav, through his alleged inability to control himself when amongst women.

What kind of president will Peres be? Having been in the Knesset since 1959, he's got used to speaking his mind. But yesterday he pledged that as president, he will be a unifier rather than a decision-maker. Since there's no written constitution, the president’s role and purpose is quite flexible, largely determined by the incumbent. Katsav was little known outside of Israel, considered by foreign dignitaries as nothing more than an official Israeli figure-head. Peres, on the other hand, has enormous kudos abroad and may indeed attract more international attention than the Prime Minister. But when it comes to Israelis, Peres will never command respect from a large number of locals – even if he were never to utter another political word. Which brings us to the question of who the president is there to serve – folk here or folk there?

Yossi Verter in Haaretz, summed up Peres with the following joke:
Shimon Peres comes out of a visit with the King of Thailand and goes to the local market and buys some elegant fabric. He takes it to a Thai tailor and asks him to make him a suit from it. The tailor looks at the fabric and says to him: I'm sorry - It's only enough for a pair of pants, if that. The next day he flies to London. He takes the fabric from Thailand to a top tailor. It's enough for a sleeve at most, the tailor tells him. That evening he's in Paris and goes to see another tailor. Maybe I'll be able to sew you a sock, the tailor says. Disappointed, Peres returns to Israel. On his way to party headquarters, he stops by his usual tailor on Lilienblum Street. Can you do something with this fabric, Peres asks. I'll make you two suits, says the tailor. And an extra pair of pants. Stupefied, Peres asks: How is it that abroad the fabric is hardly enough for anything while here you can sew me half a wardrobe out of it? That's easy, replies the tailor, laughing. Abroad, you're a giant.

Based on that, we can safely assume that for the next seven years, the Office of the President of the State of Israel will be great for Israel's reputation abroad, if largely irrelevant to the kiosk owner in Lod and taxi driver in Rehovot.

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