Israel’s Next President Should Be Rabbi Dr. Lord Jonathan Sacks

Most Israelis would agree that Shimon Peres has been an excellent President of the State of Israel for the last 10 years. With all of the political maneuvering currently going on between Rubi Rivlin, Binyamin ben Eliezer, Silvan Shalom and other self declared candidates for the job, I think it would be useful to look at what has made Peres so successful and what the right criteria is for selecting a great President for Israel.

Israel’s president is largely a ceremonial role but it is a position that carries great public import. The President is present at all major national events and ceremonies and is called on by diplomats and global business people alike. Therefore, the President should be widely respected in senior diplomatic circles, state capitals and centers of political power. Since he is supposed to be apolitical and is entrusted with the power to pardon, the President must also possess a strong moral compass and provide air-cover for the policy setting politicians in the knesset. Lastly, he should represent the State of Israel well and have the gravitas to influence public and government opinion in Israel and abroad.

Whether you liked him or his policies, it is incontrovertible that Shimon Peres achieved that status through decades of visionary and diplomatic work, his Nobel Peace Prize and his relationships with world leaders. He ticked all of the boxes above and brought tremendous honor and positive press to Israel. The only other Jew I can think of at this time that answers to all of those qualities is former English Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks.

Rabbi Dr. Lord Sacks is the foremost Jewish thinker and philosophical writer of our generation. His scope of general and Jewish knowledge is immense and his thinking is original and highly germane to the world’s current events and zeitgesit. He is welcomed in halls of power and has influence in them. He is an effective speaker with moral and ethical credentials that are inspiring. He would provide our fractious political system the moral air cover it needs to navigate the complex Middle East while at the same time inspiring Israel with his forward thinking philosophy of ethics and Judaism. He is also widely respected across the Jewish spectrum which could use a unifying president.

Appointing Rabbi Sacks President would be the ultimate expression of Israel’s desire to be a light unto the nations, a lighthouse of morals and ethics in policy, business and affairs of state. As Rabbi Sacks himself has written about Judaism,

“No other faith has attached a higher value to study. None has given it a higher position in the scale of communal priorities. From the very outset Israel knew that freedom cannot be created by legislation nor can it be sustained by political structures alone.”

And nothing would embody that more than appointing a master educator, orator and ethicist to be President of the modern State of Israel.

I realize that his sub-standard grasp of Hebrew is a drawback but so was Stanley Fischer’s and he was a fabulous appointment as Governor of the Bank of Israel.

As we approach a critical decade in Israel’s history, choosing the right President cannot be a matter of political musical chairs. I implore the 120 members of Knesset who will choose the next President to rise above their petty politics, personal and party considerations and make a bold move to choose Rabbi Sacks. Choosing Rabbi Lord Sacks will enhance Israel’s global standing for decades to come. I know it is not easy but it is the right decision. None of the current parve candidates listed above will do anything for our international presence, moral fiber, and our global influence.

[Originaly published on 4th January 2014 by MIchael Eisenberg]