Moshe Katzav: A Profile of Israel's New President
by Gad Nahshon
Moshe Katzav is Israel's new president. He was elected in the first round by the majority of the Israeli Knesset. He election was a great surprise. Katzav, an experienced politician and a popular one, decided to take the chance against an internationally acclaimed Israeli politician and statesman: Shimon Peres. Many objected to Peres because of his role in the Oslo Accords, but Peres is an 'institution' in the history of Israel since he was at the age of 26, the 'Boss' of Israeli Defense Ministry.
Peres believes in the possibility of achieving peace with the P.L.O. and he went to the extreme in promoting his belief. Moshe Katzav was a major leader in the Likud party. He style was unique. He was always a moderate politician looking for consensus rather than for confrontation. Yitzhak Shamir, who is very critical of Shimon Peres because of the Oslo Agreements, which have pushed Israel into the brink of an abyss, immediately supported Katzav who was nominated by Shamir as a Transportation Minister when he was only 38 years old and a member of the Knesset. Shamir gave Katzav his first chance as a cabinet minister. Later Katzav became the chairman of the Likud and Labor or Tourism Minister.
"Moshe Katzav will honor the Israeli presidency with a new spirit and style. He loves the common man. He is modest. He expresses the beauty of the Israeli people in his personality. Katzav radiates peace and love for everyone. His way of life is always to achieve solutions by compromises," remarked Israel's Yitzhak Shamir, who recently published his Conversation with Shamir in this country.
Shamir, Israel's 'Founding Father' explained to the Israeli media that the election of Moshe Katzav, a Likud leader and ex-minister, was a reaction to Israeli's unhealthy domestic political-religious wars. Katzav, who was born in Iran, stays away from these inside partisan wars. Katzav is looking for establishing new Israeli national consensus and views himself as a healer.
Shamir recognized Katzav's talents and uniqueness and therefore promoted Katzav's career inside the Likud. Shamir wrote before the election deadline: "Israel badly needs a person such as Katzav, a president with a sense of optimism and belief." Shamir also assessed this election of Katzav as a victory to the Israeli consensus, the one of the 'national camps.' Of course, the president must be a national leader above the daily politics. He belongs to the people and must serve the people. He must be politically neutral. I would like to note that Moshe Katzav, who came to Israel as a child to suffer the pains of absorption and acculturation, the pains of poverty, never try to make political gains or play 'ethnic politics' (Sepharadim vs. Ashkenazim).
He is against political ethnicity. He is for one Israel, for a multi-ethnic society with one national consensus. He promises to be a new healer. He promises to stop the new madness of ethnic wars, wars between brothers. It is a dangerous conflict which can destroy the Israeli society from within. Katzav understands this danger. As a traditional Israeli he also will promote better relations between religious and secular Israelis.
Katzav, the youngest president in the Israeli history and the first non-Ashkenazi president, will be the one leader who will unite the Israelis as one nation before it will be too late. He will challenge the problems as a president who never supports extremist positions. Katzav replaced the president Eizer Wiezman who had to resign under public pressure. Katzav, who lives in Kiriat Malachy in the Negev, has to promote consensus in a society which has been pushed into the bring of anarchy.
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