Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word

If a Jewish Rip Van Winkle (Rip van Finkle?) were to awaken today and read the papers, he would wonder if he had ever really been asleep. Names that were in the headlines when he dozed off years ago — Peres, Olmert, Barak — are still in the headlines. Despite their many errors and miscalculations, they remain in power. Nothing has changed.

Not so in other countries. In England, politicians who make serious mistakes resign from office. In the US, if the mistake is really bad, they apologize and go into re-hab. In Japan, they commit harakiri.

We are not advocating the Japanese way of expressing regret, but the British have a long history of parliamentary government, and their example should be of some guidance. If you fail in government, you resign and go home. But when Israeli politicians fail, they blame not themselves but everyone else around them, and — unfailingly — they manage to cling to office. Ours is a tradition of non-accountability. Our leaders never admit mistakes. They never apologize.

Instead, they run for office again, get elected again, or get appointed to high office. Being an Israeli politician means never having to say you’re sorry.

Despite their major misjudgments and failures, neither Shimon Peres, Ehud Olmert, or Ehud Barak has ever admitted an error, or apologized to the public for their mistakes, much less displayed any contrition. Each one is riding high today, either reaching for, or clinging to, that heady drug called power and influence.

And the Israeli public? It has become so accustomed to these shenanigans that it is no longer shocked or offended by the self-serving ambitions of their putative leaders. Inured to corruption in high places, the public shrugs its shoulders and continues chattering on its cell phones.

IN TRUTH, the Israeli tradition of non-accountability is not Jewish at all. On the contrary, apologies and regrets are an integral part of our tradition. Judaism offers the profound concept of Teshuva — atonement. We are always given the chance to repent and to ask forgiveness from God for our sins. But there is one condition. We have to specify the sin, and we have to state that we regret it. It is not enough simply to approach God and to mumble something about being sorry. In his monumental Laws of Repentance 1:1, Maimonides puts it very clearly: “The act of repentance requires one to confess sincerely and verbally before God…and say, I have sinned, transgressed, violated such-and-such a law; I regret it and am ashamed of my deeds, and will never again repeat them….”

AS A public service to some of our politicians, here are some custom-made samples of prepared confessions — all inspired by the great Maimonides:

Peres: “I ask forgiveness for the sin of Oslo. I sincerely thought that a new Middle East was upon us, but I was completely in error. Oslo was a disaster for us. The Arabs never wanted peace, they want only to eliminate us by any means — even by declaring peaceful intentions. I was too blinded to see this and I pushed hard for the Oslo agreements. This led to misery and to bloodshed, and I sincerely regret it. I am ashamed of my deeds and will never again repeat them. Nor will I ever again ask for the trust of public office.”

Olmert: “I ask forgiveness for the sins of Gaza and the sin of the Second Lebanon War. I agreed with Sharon that by forcing the Jewish citizens of Gaza out of their homes, Israel would win the sympathy of the world and would convince the Arabs of our peaceful intentions. I was wrong on all counts. We achieved no sympathy, we hurt almost 10,000 of our most idealistic Israelis, and we only convinced the Arabs that we were in retreat. I was too blinded to see all this, and it has led to bloodshed and misery for all of us. The current nightmare situation in Gaza — which has become a Hamas and al-Qaida stronghold that bombs Israel daily — is a direct result of my miscalculation. I am ashamed of what I did, and I will never again ask for the trust of public office.

“The same holds true for my sins in the Second Lebanon war. Winograd was right: I made terrible errors in judgment that cost us dearly. The same holds true for all the ethical questions swirling about my financial dealings. I regret all this and apologize as I return to private life.”

Barak: “I ask forgiveness for evacuating our soldiers from Lebanon when I was PM. I thought this would convince the world and the Arabs of our peaceful intentions. I was wrong on all counts. The Arabs want only our destruction, and their several intifadas prove this. I also ask forgiveness for trying to give most of the Old City to Arafat during the Wye talks. All we got in return was more killings and more intifada. I regret all this, and as an act of repentance I pledge never again to ask for the trust of public office.”

I AM happy, as a public service, to make these pre-printed texts available free of charge to any politician who requests them. Each politician can fill in the appropriate blanks as necessary. I’m also making available, again without charge, special training classes for politicians who have difficulty in articulating the following three words: “I-was-wrong.”

These classes will be available in Hebrew, Russian, Arabic, and English. A brief four-week course will train the palate, lips, tongue and mouth to form these words and to pronounce them whenever appropriate.

It is of course highly unlikely that those who need it most will take advantage of these offers. There is something in the gene pool of politicians that prevents them from ever admitting an error. This is because there is only one raison d’etre of a politician: to remain in office. Even when he has some ideals and some principles, these are all subservient to his one purpose in life: to retain power. Phrases like “I am sorry” and “I was wrong” are uttered only when they are calculated to help one remain in office.

What happens to a country when the really good people refuse to enter government, and when only political hacks choose to remain? For the answer, look at the Israeli political scene today. The sadness is that Israel is blessed with a talent pool of brilliant and creative people of integrity — most of whom are not in government. How to attract such people into government office to replace the self-aggrandizing retreads now leading us is one of the great challenges of Israeli society.

In the meantime, move over, Rip Van Winkle. It is time to join you in a siesta. If we are lucky, some new faces will be in place when we wake up.

Published in today’s Jerusalem Post.

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33 Responses

  1. Ahron says:

    As the comments here wind down, I must note that the common and nearly exclusive theme in the objections to R. Feldman’s original piece, and similar objections to comments posted by myself and others, is in fact what I suggested above: that Israeli politicians ‘meant well’ and ‘really thought’ they were doing ‘the right thing’.

    I ask those of you who still hold this belief to ask yourselves: at what point would reality outweigh the value of ‘good intentions’. How many separate times would your child have to set the carpet on fire before his protestations that he “really just wanted to help light the candles” start to ring flat? How many times would your colleague have to “totally unintentionally” set your office on fire before your tolerance ran out?

    Are you willing to extend to George W Bush a similar benefit of the doubt that he had the best intentions when invading Iraq? What about those political leaders who believe the hysteria about man-made global warming is unfounded, and refuse to change their nations’ industrial activities–would you forgive them if the glaciers melted and humanity got permanently pruny? Would it all be OK because they really had “the best intentions”?

    If a right-wing Israeli leader had ordered a bizarre invasion of Syria that had left 1,500 Israelis dead, would you forgive him because he only did it for “the best reasons”? And how many guns would he have to place in the hands of your enemies, and how many fellow citizens have to be murdered by them, before you wonder if the politician supplying the guns really “means well”.

    Let us suppose that an Israeli prime minister had supplied thousands of weapons to dreaded [insert Darth Vader theme music] “Israeli settlers”. Let’s say those guns were later used to murder three innocent Arabs….

    Think about it for a second. How about 30 innocent Arabs? How about 97 innocent Arabs murdered and 117 wounded? How about more than 1,000 innocent Arabs murdered in several thousand total incidents over the course of 10 years?

    And let’s say that over the course of those 10 years, the Israeli prime minister continued distributing more weapons to the killers themselves or their closest friends. Would you forgive that prime minister on the grounds that he “meant well”? Would you forgive the new prime ministers who continued the process after him?

    Let’s get real. In your comments above, you do not even claim to be pleased with the results that the politicians whom you defend brought to the Jewish people. Nor do you even claim that the results were good irrespective of your own preferences.

    And more fundamentally–as I think is demonstrated by the thought experiments above–you do not really believe that the “good intentions” test is a widely applicable benchmark for assessment in the real world.

    The truth, in contrast, is that you hold good intentions as a narrowly applicable benchmark, meaning this: you hold to a certain ideology, one that you are not willing to abandon. And it pleases you that people in positions of power advocated for that ideology and implemented it in practical ways that you were not able to do yourself.

    And so you are willing to forgive people who commit reckless acts that harm others, as long as those acts are in furtherance of your particular ideology.

    In my view you should ask yourself if there is any break point at which you might have to conclude that your ideology is misguided or even untrue. And if there is not, what does that say about your ideology? In the meantime, I wonder what the victims think.

  2. Ben Bayit says:

    Lobersetin – saying “we have only one chance for a Jewish State” (or we have only one State as people like Eli Sadan phrase it) is no less of pagan idol worshipping than the canard often thrown out by certain circles of left-wing orthodox Rabbis that the national religious “worship the land”. The lesson of the Nurenberg Hearings was that obedience to right supercedes obedience to the state. Obedience to the state is fundamentally pagan in nature and is what the Torah came to uproot.

    The impending disaster of the Oslo Accords were apparent from the beginning. Arafat was an unreformed revolutionary, quasi-MArxist thug who reaped disaster everywhere he went. Immediately after signing the agreement he referred to it as being similar to various “temporary” treaties signed by Muhamed and pledged to wage jihad until the end. This information was made accessible in Hebrew and English and only a pagan worship of the State would have prevented an educated Rabbi from seeing the truth. The Israeli government utilized communist propaganda tactics to lull the population into thinking Arafat was reformed when he wasn’t, and utilized Stalinist tactics to suppress opposition to Oslo.

    What you wanted to occur was unrealistic and unacheivable from the beginning and it was obvious from the beginning that Oslo would turn Israel into the Valley of the Shadow of Death – as it did – and in attcking oppenents of the accord by defining them as “irational” or “messianists” or “idolatrous land worshippers” was a contribution to the Oslo process and what it ultimately reaped for Israel. Former Minister without Portfolio Amital’s assertion that you mention, was part and parcel of this political tactic of deligitimization of the opponents of the Oslo accord, and is a baseless canard against many of those those who truly seek Israel’s security and truly wish to see a democractic Israel arise from the ashes of it’s current pseudo-communist incarnation – and who are not idol worshippers, are not irrational and are not messianic – and many of whom are not even religious.

    Read a bit of my blog if the above terminology as it relates to the State of Israel is foreign to you

  3. Jacob Haller says:

    David Farkas made an interesting point. One example where Israel did in fact apologize -the Kahan commission- has been used against Israel by the adversaries repeatedly. It also did nothing to bolster Israel’s image for accountability and due diligence which undoubtedly was the driving force behind it.

  4. David Farkas says:

    Smar politicians never apologize, and never explain. It doesnt get you anywhere. An apology just feeds the flames of those who hate you to begin with. It’s a sign of weakness. I’m not saying I agree with this posture, I’m simply stating a fact.

    It’s not just politicians, by the way. If we’re honest, we’ve never seen the Agudah apologize for its many mistakes, either. Again, b/c its pointless, and only serves to bolster the critics.

  5. Loberstein says:

    “Lo nishkach velo nislach” We won’t forget and we won’t forgive is a catchy slogan but counter productive. We all know how imperfect Israeli society is and how many dysfunctional things are existent. However, it is our one chance for a Jewish State and we have to make it work. I supported Oslo from the pulpit for years to the chagrin of many of my members. When the First Intifada broke out, I spoke on Yom Kippur and said I had erred. It is not that I changed my mind, but events showed what we wanted to occur was unrealistic and unachievable.
    How the mightly have fallen. The Mizrachi imploded because of this issue. That is a great loss to the dream of a Jewish State with a Yiddishe Neshoma. Great leaders like Rav Herzog are gone and we are left with a Chief Rabbinate that is less than a shadow of its previous glory. I do not share the one sided blame of everyone but ourselves that I see in the shards of the National Religious community. If there are problems today, they are not worse than in Rav Kook’s day, grow up and do something positive to give the mediana a Jewish character. As Rav Avital once told me, they have turned land into a cult and forgotten every other aspect of religious zionism.

  6. Yehoshua Friedman says:

    First of all, Israel needs a change of culture, as Rabbi Feldman so nicely points out. After that it needs a change of regime. The electoral system is so constituted that the parties choose their representatives rather than the public. Every government in Israel’s history has been a coalition, so that the parties can say whatever they want to woo voters in the campaign, but the day after the election they re-tailor their programs to the realities of who they need to work with to gain or retain power. Which parties are allowed to run is determined by the all-powerful judiciary. Pro-terror Arabs yes, Kahane no. In the most recent election, no one understands how or why the Pensioners’ party, headed by the former handler of Pollard who publically stated that Pollard should have been eliminated, came out of nowhere with seven seats to help Olmert make his coalition. WHO voted for them? Was this rigged?
    I think that if (G-d forbid) this country were to fold, there would be arrangements for all the members of Israel’s political elite while the rest of us get shechted, mutilated and thrown from high floors of buildings by Arabs.

    Shachar: As for Rabbi Riskin, I believe that although he is an ace at public relations and fund-raising, he is still an idealist. Otherwise he would have remained in his cushy pulpit in New York. He was never in the pocket of the religious parties. He once supported Sharansky’s former Yisrael B’Aliya party.

  7. Loberstein says:

    It would be amazing if the USA had the Israeli political class’s permanant job security no matter how many times they loose. If so, our national leaders would include, McGovern, Dukakis,Jimmy Carter, need I go on. However, as we make light of Israel’s politicians, it is with a heavy heart that we take note that Israel’s shomer shabbat Nasi, who was the first to put a syngogue in the Beit Hanasi (and who won brownie points from one of Cross-Currents’ most regular contributors for stating that non orthodox rabbis are not rabbis), is a major disgrace. How can a frum guy also be a serial sex offender? I guess he wasn’t worse than his secular colleagues who are being caught right and left , but look at how this has turned into a chillul hashem. His wife is in the same position that dozens ,if not hundreds, of political wives have been in of knowing that their husband was not what he appeared to be and having to keep quiet about it. Poor Mrs Katzav. Would all the Hillary haters , despise her less if she had divorced Bill? I wonder.

  8. SM says:

    Ahron,

    I wonder how you operate without hindsight. People did what they thought was right. THe type of attack you have launched here, simply helps to hand power to those who tell people what they want to hear(like Netanyahu) or people who ignore the big issues and concentrate on what they can get (like every religious party in the country).

    Measurable fact is that Israel cannot indefinitely occupy a small area temming with 1.5 million plus people who don’t want to be occupied. And every leader has come to recognise this – even those, like Sharon, elected on the basis that they would refuse to recognise it.

    You simply cannot run a country and have as little responsibility as you and Rabbi Feldman have when you make these comments.

    Let me suggest a new card.

    “I am sorry for forgetting that my religion mandates that human life is more important than earth or cities. I am sorry for failing to minimise the disruption caused by my legitimate need for a homeland, which happens to be where you also live. I am sorry for failing to try to find a way to defuse your anger because I preferred my own triumphalism.”

  9. Ahron says:

    >“Reading the above back and forth, a quote from Shakespeare comes to mind: “A pox on both your houses!” (Romeo & Juliet)”

    LOL (a little bit). Look I adore Shakespeare but that said–it’s very important to resist the temptation to say “To hell with all of you!” or “Throw all the bums out!” Those responses are mainly a face-saving way to say: ‘Don’t force me to analyze the facts–just give me a clear-cut solution now!’ That’s certainly no way get to the truth, which is why such an attitude would never be allowed in a courtroom–it’s just a cover for laziness.

  10. Ori Pomerantz says:

    Ahron: In every human pursuit there is a level where misconduct and negligence come to constitute malice and malpractice. Both are considered ethically and legally punishable. Given Israeli politicians’ recent track record (i.e. over the last 20 years) is there not enough data—and damage—to warrant at least an investigation? US administrations have been rigorously investigated for far less.

    Ori: Politicians are investigated for almost every crime in the book, except for criminal negligence in the discharge of their official duties. Nobody in the US was investigated for the Vietnam war. Chamberlin, a.k.a. Mr “Peace in Our Time”, was not investigated for the appeasement that encouraged Hitler ym”sh to the point WWII was necessary.

    Garnel Ironheart: I would like to note that Shimon Peres’ and Yossi Beilin’s meeting with the PLO in secret during the Madrid conference years in order to formulate the Oslo Accord was AGAINST the law of Israel which forbid such meetings.

    Ori: If I remember correctly, that law has an exception for official representatives of the state of Israel. Shimon Peres was the foreign minister at the time, which could mean he was allowed to appoint said representatives. But I agree that that is a potential crime that could be legitimately investigated.

  11. Bob Miller says:

    The record of Israel’s political leaders only makes sense if they are on the payroll of some other country.

  12. joel rich says:

    BTW IIRC Rabbeinu Yonah wrote the classic Shaarei Tshuva as part of his repentance for attacking the Rambam and later realizing he was wrong in doing so. To paraphrase a famous story – how many of us will get to shamayim and be asked “where’s your shaarei tshuva”?

    KT

  13. Garnel Ironheart says:

    By the way, and not to take a side here, but while Mr. Pomerantz quite rightly notes that passing retroactive laws and judging leaders based on them is wrong, I would like to note that Shimon Peres’ and Yossi Beilin’s meeting with the PLO in secret during the Madrid conference years in order to formulate the Oslo Accord was AGAINST the law of Israel which forbid such meetings. No need to make any retroactive changes to judge him for that.

  14. Garnel Ironheart says:

    Reading the above back and forth, a quote from Shakespeare comes to mind: “A pox on both your houses!” (Romeo & Juliet)

  15. Ahron says:

    Ori, please see my comments above. In every human pursuit there is a level where misconduct and negligence come to constitute malice and malpractice. Both are considered ethically and legally punishable. Given Israeli politicians’ recent track record (i.e. over the last 20 years) is there not enough data–and damage–to warrant at least an investigation? US administrations have been rigorously investigated for far less.

  16. Ori Pomerantz says:

    Charedi Leumi: When the country will inevitably mend its wounds and reach a state of spiritual health, we will use the same “justice” system which currently oppresses us to deal justice to those who have commited these crimes against our brothers. Poshei Oslo laDin!

    Ori: In other words, the current crop of politicians have to hold on to power, by whatever means necessary. Losing it will mean jail or exile. Since nothing they did is technically illegal under Israeli law, you’ll pass retroactive laws and judge them based on that.

    I’m not sure where the point of no return is for a civil war, but I suspect your plans aren’t that far from it.

  17. Ahron says:

    >“You could simplify things by providing pre-printed texts reading “I ask forgiveness for the sin of holding political opinions different from those of Rabbi Feldman….”
    Comment by ilana”

    Do you define over 1,500 Israelis murdered by Arab terrorists since Oslo (more than in the entire history of the state up until then) as a record to be proud of? Do you believe the handover of southern Lebanon to a terrorist group in 2000–a move that led to one full-scale war already and now threatens the sovereignty of Lebanon itself–is worthy of admiration?

    Should Israeli politicians perhaps reconsider their eager provision of weaponry, ammunition, advanced tactical training and sophisticated equipment to the terrorists of the West Bank and Gaza?

    Was the handover of the full Gaza Strip to a consortium of terrorist groups in 2005–and the expulsion of 9,000 residents to effectuate that handover–an act of virtue? Are Israeli politicians responsible for the destruction of those residents’ lives and livelihoods? Are Ehud Olmert and his political associates at all culpable for their now explicit refusal to protect the citizens of Sderot?

    Should the Olmert government face any judgment or consequences for its dismissal of intelligence warnings (and common sense) that enormous quantities of weapons and personnel were and are being smuggled into Gaza?

    Should we admire successive Israeli leaders consignment of millions of Palestinians to live under the boot of the PLO and its terrorist associates? Is Israel’s empowerment of a dictatorial terrorist organization a model that other leaders should emulate? Does Israel not bear some moral guilt strictly for the consequences that this empowerment has brought down on the Arabs of the West Bank and Gaza? (not to even mention Israelis!)

    Should the general judgment of Israeli leaders be held up to scrutiny, now that their decades-long insistence on the imminence of “peace” with “partners” has decayed into suicide bombs, security fences and daily missile strikes? Does the fact that they were demonstrably incorrect even at the beginning not sharpen the question?

    There’s political opinion, and then there’s measurable fact. Confusion of the two leads to poor judgment. How do you respond? That the politicians “meant well”? I wonder if the dead victims agree.

  18. Garnel Ironheart says:

    To add to Chareidi Leumi’s comments:

    There is a reactionary movement within the RZ world called “Realistic Religious Zionism”. Their position is clear – unilateral retreat from the “occupied territories” and a change in the focus of the movement to kiruv amongst the non-religious Israelis. This is in stark contract to the movement within the RZ world that focuses exclusively on the settlements.

    Naturally, the proper course in somewhere in the middle.

    One must remember that the original reason the Mercaz Ruchani Leumi (the Mizrachi) arose was to bridge the gap between the Zionists who wanted to build a Jewish national home but wanted nothing to do with religion, with the Chareidi community of the day which was deeply immersed in Torah but wanted nothing to do with the building of a Jewish national home. The point of Mizrachi was to create a middle ground, a movement in which the building of a Jewish national home was to be halachically and spiritually desirable. The terms laid down by the three oaths in Kesubos had been fulfilled and therefore it was time to return and rebuild Israel not just because we wanted to be a nation like all others but because it was Jewish destiny to restore Hashem’s glory and his people to His land.

    What happened since is what happens to all movements that try to occupy the middle ground. Some moved left, allowing the chilonim to influence them more than they influenced the chilonim and others moved right, preferring the non-compromising idealism of the chareidi community(BTW, I am not saying this in a critical fashion, I admire the chareidi community to manitain its standards in the face of overwhelming societal pressure).

    If RZ wishes to regain any sort of importance, it must regain that middle ground, showing that it is possible to build a Jewish national home and that a mdoern state run along halachic lines is possible. We should be pushing for the sanctity of Shabbos, kashrus and public decency. But we should also be pushing for the historical truth that Yehudah and Shomron are OUR lands that were taken from us by enemy squatters and that fighting for the “territories” is not a fanatical enterprise but rather an assertion of Jewish rights for Jewish land.

  19. Shachar Haamim says:

    I don’t believe that Rabbi riskin supported the Oslo Accords. He may have said stuff like that in English to his big fat-cat liberal American donors, but that’s not what he was saying in Hebrew back home. He knew that Oslo was BAD for the Jewish people and he said so. Maybe that’s why he liked Arafat at that time. They both did the dual-language double-speak tango.

    Here’s one Israeli who reads this and doesn’t vote for religious parties.

  20. Chareidi Leumi says:

    >How is this perception inaccurate? And if it is accurate, does such a single issue focus really serve the interest of Jews and Torah?

    The perception is accurate and much of the cheshbon nefesh in the RZ is revolving around whether we worked hard enough for social concerns, for the sanctity of Shabbat. Did we work hard enough to bring Judaism into the social fabric of the state or did we simply allow the secularism of the state come into our Judaism. All these things have been heard and will continue to be heard. It is once of the few positive results of the criminal expultion of our brothers from our lands.

    So I and many others who I know are mekabel the mussar in this regard. However! Do not think for a second that we therefore stop seeing the expulsion as a criminal act. Lo Nishkach veLo Nislach! When the country will inevitably mend its wounds and reach a state of spiritual health, we will use the same “justice” system which currently oppresses us to deal justice to those who have commited these crimes against our brothers. Poshei Oslo laDin!

  21. ilana says:

    You could simplify things by providing pre-printed texts reading “I ask forgiveness for the sin of holding political opinions different from those of Rabbi Feldman….”

  22. cvmay says:

    Joe Fisher
    “Kochi VeOtem Yadi” was a tarnished and ailing slogan of Israel, which has been replaced by “Ain Le Koach”. This is loosely translated into,”I have no physical, mental, emotional or spirtual strength to endure the trials and tribulations of living in the land of Israel”. With this new mantra, anything goes—corruption, anti-jewish leadership, post zionist causes, left-wing media, hatred of the pioneer settlers & the religious, and self hatred. No need for a SORRY in this sorry state of events.

  23. YM says:

    We don’t really know the outcome of these actions, do we? Bush in 2002 said he was going to throw all the cards in the air; the status quo was unacceptable. Now, instead of Arab dictators, we have elected Islamists. Yet, perhaps this is better; do we really know? We know the story ends well, it is getting there that is the hard part.

  24. Charles B. Hall, PhD says:

    Ori,

    From here on the western side of the Atlantic, the very strong impression is that the religious parties in Israel are only interested in a single issue: For the charedi parties, that issue is money for their communities, especially their yeshivot, and for the religious Zionist parties, that issue is settlements. They seem to be willing to support just about any government that gives them what they want on those issues. As a result they have little influence in other areas.

    How is this perception inaccurate? And if it is accurate, does such a single issue focus really serve the interest of Jews and Torah?

  25. Joe Fisher says:

    And the last “Al Chet” should be coming from us, for believing in our cochi v’Otzem yadi.

  26. Garnel Ironheart says:

    A politician who screws up and is then re-elected by a populace well aware of his mistake does not have to say sorry. Why should he? The public has already forgiven him.

    As for the question of whether religious leaders apologize, I recall Rav Shlomo Riskin who, in the early days of Oslo, was a huge booster of the process. Arafat was our friend, he would say, we had to trust him to make the agreement work. To his credit, he published a column in the Jerusalem Post not long after Intifada II began, publicly admitting he was wrong. So not all leaders, religious or otherwise, are trapped by their own self-righteous beliefs.

    One thing should be mentioned, however, and that is the cost of an apology. Imagine Ehud Olmert goes on television tomorrow and says “Yeah, I guess I was asleep at the switch for the Gaza withdrawal, the Sderot bombardment, the second Lebanon War. I’m sorry. I could have done better. I regret it all happening and will try harder in the future.” Does anyone imagine his career as prime minister lasting until the next morning before the caterwauling of “Resign!” ends it?

    In the political arena, apologizing means ending one’s career. I can’t imagine why anyone enjoying the perks of public office would rush to do that.

  27. Ori Pomerantz says:

    Given that most Israelis who read this site probably vote for religious parties, do you think anybody in those parties needs to apologize? Obviously they do not control the ministery of defense, but they do have some influence over which parties will be in power and therefore which policies will be enacted.

  28. Ahron says:

    >“Being an Israeli politician means never having to say you’re sorry.”

    I can’t help but note the relevance here of Dennis Prager’s astute and oft-repeated observation that in the modern era “being on the Left means never having to say you’re sorry”.

    It’s somehow the politician’s (or Leftist’s) “good intentions” that are supposed to matter to us, instead of the practical outcome of the actions they took. It’s literally childish.

  29. Bob Miller says:

    Even if the political class did admit all its errors, it would not become any more competent to address problems in its areas of responsibility.

    1. Do we hold the voters accountable?

    2. Or are the voters prevented, by forces outside their control, from installing responsible, competent leadership?

  30. Harry Maryles says:

    Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word

    Shades of Elton John:

    Its sad, so sad… It’s a sad, sad situation …and it’s getting more and more absurd. It’s sad, so sad …Why can’t we talk it over. Oh it seems to me …that sorry seems to be the hardest word.

    And shades of Erich Segal’s ‘Love Story’:

    Being an Israeli politician means never having to say you’re sorry.

    Peres, Olmert, Barak

    Yes they did make mistakes but so did Netanyahu. You forgot to mention him.

    Ours is a tradition of non-accountability. Our leaders never admit mistakes. They never apologize.

    They act and speak as though they are infallible. I guess this must be the great Nisayon of our time, be it secular leaders or religious ones.

    But is it true that it is only Israel’s leaders who are like that? What about our current and immediate past Presidents?

    Even though I think he was a great President, Bill Clinton didn’t resign after his indiscretions even though his behavior was a major embarrassment to his country. And even after he was impeached he remained as President and finished his term. Today he is given a high place of honor by the media, his fans, the Democratic Party, and even the White House who has asked him and his immediate precedent, President George H. W. Bush to be emissaries of the White House and the United States for various projects around the world.

    And although I am a big supporter of President Bush, he never admitted to any mistakes with respect to what will surely become his major legacy, the war in Iraq. Had he not attacked Iraq, we could now probably more effectively deal with Iran which is by far a much greater threat that Iraq was at the time of the invasion.

    Just to be clear, I don’t blame him for going in based on the information he had in a post 9/11 world. I strongly supported him. But knowing what we know now, it was surely a mistake, albeit one which we have no choice but to conclude with a win. We can ill afford to leave things as they are now.

    As for Olmert… Yes, he is everything you say he is as are the others. He did make mistakes. He should apologize. But to resign means Israel will have to choose another Prime Minister by voting for the party they feel has the best leader. That probably means a total reorganization of government with a very unpredictable outcome. Who will be the new PM? Will he be any better? What will his or her cabinet look like? Will it hurt or benefit the Torah world? And finally will it not give us one of the other unapologetic re-treads anyway?

    In my view we ought to cut Olmert some slack and see what happens until the end of his term. We know what we have now. I think it is better not to rock the boat right now. If he resigns, who knows what will replace him.

  31. HILLEL says:

    The Israeli Government operates more like a dictatorship than a democracy. You cannot choose your leaders. The parties make that choice for you, and the parties are controlled by a small group of strongmen who never sem to retire.

  32. Shachar Haamim says:

    I can think of quite a number of Rabbi Feldman’s associates who have appeared regularly on the pages of Tradition who supported ALL of the policies advanced by these politicians – and even said that religious Jews had an obligation to follow these policies – and who have NEVER admitted they were wrong. That’s b/c they give a rabbinal hechsher to these delusional political policies and couch their political positions in the cloth of the rabbinate. Let’s see pre-printed tshuva texts for Rabbis

  33. joel rich says:

    Very interesting piece. Is public repentance common among leaders of religious groups?

    KT