What kind of people do we want as our leaders? Is it unreasonable to expect the individuals who govern our country and determine our fate, at least to some extent, to be honest, righteous and upstanding? The sad reality seems to be that decent, honest individuals are not the sort of people who go into politics, or who succeed in the cut and thrust of that world.

Looking around at the characters who have come to prominence in various countries that are close to Israel in outlook and electoral system (i.e., democracies) is enough to make one tremble in fear. America happens to have someone who appears to be a fairly decent individual at its head at present, but as he is someone who has survived the cut and thrust of USA politics for many decades one cannot help wondering how much decency and honesty he has had to abandon on the way. Of course, the alternative to the current incumbent (and the one he replaced) is ten times worse when it comes to decency, honesty, integrity and all the other qualities one would hope to have in the leader of a great country. Worse, still, there is good reason to believe that that individual will return to the position of power at the next election.

And what about dear old England, the country of my birth, the country that gave refuge to my parents when they were at risk of losing their lives to a brutal regime some eighty years ago? England of today seems to be in a sorry state on many fronts, with large parts of the population suffering financial hardship, whether as a result of Brexit or the current global economic crisis following Covid and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The person at the head of the British government is currently being assailed by massive resignations of members of his government, as they demand his resignation and accuse him of lying, mismanagement, and a general lack of integrity. As I write this I’m informed he has indeed resigned, though it’s anyone’s guess what will happen next.

Here in Israel the public is currently being beset by revelations of what went on in the residence of the former prime minister as deliveries of top-grade cigars, jewellery, cosmetics and crates of the most expensive champagne arrived regularly from generous donors. Not to mention the fabulously expensive luxury airplane that that individual instructed Israel’s aircraft industry to construct in emulation of the USA’s Airforce One. In a country where much of the population is struggling to feed their family, pay the rent or mortgage and keep their head above water one would expect there to be some kind of outcry against conspicuous consumption by their leader. But there is no such commotion, and that leader is still more popular than any other.

What conclusion, if any, can be drawn from the persistent popularity of individuals who seem to lack any shred of human decency or sense of fellowship with the populace they purport to lead? To my naïve mind it would seem to be a deliberate decision on the part of the voting public to ignore the qualities that were once considered to be required in a leader. I’m not going as far back as Moses, who was the very epitome of humility, or Ben Gurion who, while not humble, did not demand luxuries that most people could only dream of. Even in my time, leaders like Eshkol and Begin did not engage in conspicuous consumption and were content to adopt a lifestyle not very far removed from that of the general public.

It seems that in this day and age we are condemned to endure leaders who don’t care about setting an example to others as long as they are able to live according to a standard and style that is as far removed from that of the public they supposedly serve as was that of mediaeval monarchs from their subjects.

But in those far-off days no one thought or talked about democracy. Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose.