Saul Singer at PostGlobal

Saul Singer

Jerusalem, Israel

Saul Singer, a columnist and former editorial page editor at the Jerusalem Post, is co-author of the forthcoming book, Start-Up Nation: The Story of Israel's Economic Miracle. He has also written for the Wall Street Journal, Commentary, Middle East Quarterly, Moment, the New Leader, and (an Israeli/Palestinian e-zine). Before moving to Israel in 1994, he served as an adviser in the United States Congress to the House Foreign Affairs and Senate Banking Committees. He is also on Twitter. Close.

Saul Singer

Jerusalem, Israel

Saul Singer is a columnist and former editorial page editor at the Jerusalem Post. more »

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In Israel, No Change for Change’s Sake

The Current Discussion: With the U.S. presidential primary season in full swing, there's a lot of talk here about "change" vs. "competence" in leadership. Which does your country have more of? Is that a good thing?

With Prime Minister Ehud Olmert polling in the single digits among possible candidates for his post, there is no doubt that Israelis want change. But there seems to be much less interest in change for change's sake here compared to in the United States. Former Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who lost in a landslide to Ehud Barak in 1999 and seemed then politically irredeemable, is now leading the polls. The closest thing to an Obama-like fresh face -- Olmert ally and current foreign minister Tsipi Livni -- is not polling nearly as well as Netanyahu.

The conclusion is that Israelis want change, but they also want experience, even if that means choosing someone who only recently was widely considered a failed leader. Netanyahu has recovered politically both because the premierships of two of his successors, Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert, may look worse to many by comparison, and because Netanyahu is credited with turning around the economy during his stint as finance minister under Ariel Sharon.

Sharon still lies in a coma. As controversial as his tenure was, if he had not been struck down by illness in his political prime, he would likely have remained the most popular prime minister in decades. Perhaps his success lies in his embodiment of both "change" and "competence," or perhaps in his experience.

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