Existential dangers that can’t be eradicated in one simplistic swoop are a drag. Admitting that some problems are altogether intractable can be oppressive, especially to generations reared on the 45- minute TV plot where everything is fixable in a tight time frame. Life’s burdens would diminish if reality only conformed to Hollywood scripts.
Given that, there’s just no denying that the ultimate candidate for prime minister of Israel is none other than Ziva David – the boob tube’s outstanding Israeli patriot, a self-disciplined and self-reliant Zionist warrior, a virtual one-woman army and a sharpshooter guided by an unerring moral compass.
She’s quite possibly the only Jewish regular on American TV who’s unapologetic, complex-free and not comically dysfunctional. She’s surely the only full-time Israeli character on any mainstream network hit drama.
Indeed, NCIS’s Ziva is probably the only positive Israeli sort on the screen anywhere. Sexy, brave, accomplished (fluent in 10 languages, even if she can’t get her English idioms quite right), she’s without an image handicap (save for her daredevil driving). She’s definitely one with whom typical Israelis can proudly identify – mostly because Ziva is proud of being Israeli.
And since in our day, charismatic media stars apparently constitute sought-after political saviors, why not Ziva? Who’s better? Her fetching features should make her a shoo-in.
So what if she’s not real?
So what if she’s actually played by Chilean actress Coté de Pablo?
Perhaps Coté, inspired by her alter ego’s ideals, would make aliya (actually the name of a 2009 NCIS episode). She’d be wildly popular here, to the point of being egged on to set up her own overnight wonder-party and becoming our hottest vote-magnet.
We go big-time for the pretty-face celebrity, for the façade, for the contrived superficial suave charmer, for the unreal. Just look at the fuss churned up by Yair Lapid, one of the more vacuous TV anchors and vapid columnists.
Yet for years, speculation was rife about his imminent jump into the political fray. Indeed, no sooner had he tossed his hat into the ring than polls promised his yet-to-be-established party 20 Knesset seats. Please note: That’s when none of us can come close to pinpointing what he stands for, what he opposes, who his running mates would be, on what platform they’d campaign and even under what name they’d field their winning ticket.
That feat calls to mind what Shmuel Flatto-Sharon achieved back in 1977 when he ran for the Knesset on his lonesome and, although an unknown, garnered enough votes for two parliamentary seats – only he omitted to put together a candidates’ list. Equally amazing was Rafi Eitan’s ultimate joke of 2006 – the Pensioners list, which ushered seven elderly UFOs into our parliament, courtesy of faddish ballot-box hijinks by first-time voters.
Yair’s own father, the late Yosef “Tommy” Lapid – who, unlike his son, was a real journalist – also spawned a short-lived political marvel, Shinui, buoyed by anti-religious fervor that was proclaimed the cure-all for all that ailed us collectively.
The elder Lapid, a renowned epicure, habitually effused passion about such pressing predicaments as 5-percent cottage cheese. He assiduously denigrated dairy products with below a 9% fat content. But Tommy at least boasted genuine withering wit and a piquant humor unique to Hungarian-speakers like himself.
Not so Yair. He’s frankly bland with an assiduously obscured agenda. Conventional wisdom places him in the indeterminate political middle. In other words, his opinions represent supreme virtue by virtue of not representing much of anything.
We’re yet to hear something unambiguous from him, which is geared to endear him to every Jewish mother and her voting-age daughter. Saying nothing to all people advantageously ensconces our latest political headliner somewhere in mid-consensus. Those who won’t flock to that indistinct, nondescript space are perforce disparaged as fanatics.
Tempting as it is to malign those unafraid to take a stand as rabid, fiery-eyed nutcases (foaming at the mouth for good measure), some upright rightist and some laudable leftist choices saved the day at given junctures in human annals. There can be a cool-headed, rational Right and non-doctrinaire, non-demagogic Left. What lies between isn’t conclusively better as much as it’s a cop-out.
The dictionary definition of the latter noun is “an evasion; an excuse for inaction.” Its verb form is defined as “to avoid trouble and responsibility, evade an issue or problem, disengage oneself.” The cop-out’s promoters equate it with moderation, which can sometimes be the case but not necessarily so. Moderation itself isn’t what we should automatically hail as creditable and dependable. It may work in certain circumstances but bomb in others. Moderation, moreover, isn’t inexorably synonymous with pragmatism.
And pragmatism isn’t always wise and mustn’t be confused with levelheadedness. History is replete with examples of calamitous and cowardly choices paraded as pragmatic. Conversely sometimes bold, nonconformist and unfashionable responses prove in retrospect to have been truly pragmatic.
Lapid not only covets “middle-of-the-roader,” “moderate” and “pragmatist” epithets, but he cunningly smudges their distinctions, jumbles them together and then markets the mishmash to the undiscriminating as incomparably sound and sensible. His non-message impresses those too trendily uncritical or clueless enough to overlook all past precedents in which acclaimed middle grounds became vast killing fields. Centrism isn’t perforce the product of sober analysis. Repeatedly it’s a dithering escape from resolve.
But that hardly bothers most of those who now cheer the dashing know-it-all with the cool streaks of gray in his coiffure and a grin to rival George Clooney’s. It’s patently indisputable: Yair is gorgeous, even if we can’t quite home in on how that qualifies him for leading the nation through some of the nastiest challenges it ever faced.
If a polished TV persona is all it takes to run for PM, then why not Ziva/Coté? True, she still lacks critical exposure in this country. NCIS – the most Israel-friendly series in television history – isn’t shown here (perhaps, alas, precisely because it’s too Israel-friendly for our post-Zionist opinion-molders). But that can be rectified. Intensive transfusions of reruns should even the scales and make Ziva a local heroine.
Not only are her dark good looks reminiscent of Yair’s, but she, too, has a famous father, albeit fictional (her dad, Eli David, is the Mossad’s chief). As Yair currently illustrates, it’s not necessarily a drawback if an aspiring politico’s drawing power is contingent on imaginary strengths.
Hence, Yair is certainly no less preposterous a choice than whole-cloth Ziva. Backing him is as rational as backing her. Besides, she has sterling support. While Yair’s bosom buddy is ex-prime minister Ehud Olmert, Ziva has earned the allegiance of none other than Leroy Jethro Gibbs, her NCIS boss.
Portrayed by Mark Harmon, Gibbs is way handsomer than Olmert and is stoically incorruptible. Most important of all, unlike Olmert, he’d never declare: “We are tired of fighting; we are tired of being courageous; we are tired of winning; we are tired of defeating our enemies.”