written by William Billeaud
In the New York Times bestseller, The Athena Doctrine, we are taken around the world to look at stories of women and men who are innovating with the skills and values commonly associated with women such as cooperation, communication and sharing. An interesting change is indeed taking place in Israel, where women are now the leaders of three Israeli political parties, in addition to leaders in finance, military and business. As women have risen in Israel, their leadership has been embraced by many men. The most recognizable of them is an 89 yr. old man who was born into the ultra-Orthodox, typically right wing Jewish community (those in favor of building settlements in Palestinian territory), served with the fighters who created the state of Israel, and long stood as a hawk on security issues. By 2012, however, Shimon Peres, the 9th President of Israel, was an ardent peace advocate who had staffed his office mainly with women and used his position to argue for communication, compassion, and leadership based on Jewish morality.
According to Efrat Duvdevani, Peres’ director general, “The world is so complicated that you must have different people with different expertise putting their heads together to solve problems. My legal advisor knows very well how the media works. The person responsible for the budget knows what’s happening on the legal side and understands public opinion. In the past, the focus was one-dimensional professionalism, with employees encouraged to be experts in their own field only.”
For his part, Peres had just recently returned from a trip to the United States, where he met with President Obama and visited the main offices of Google, Facebook, and IBM. Noting how Facebook brought the world together online, he told COO Sheryl Sandberg, “What you are doing is convincing people they don’t have reason to hate.”
When Obama asked him, “What’s holding back democracy and peace in the Middle East?” Peres answered, “The husbands.” Too many husbands and fathers inhibit the region’s progress toward peace by failing to educate their children, he said, and by discouraging their wives and daughters from getting more involved in larger society. If they could conduct the dialogue, Arab women and Jewish women would create peace in short order. “But right now too many husbands won’t let their wives participate.” Talk about hitting the nail on the head….
President Peres was encouraged by the ability of technology such as Facebook and Twitter to force leaders to become more transparent and just. He was also very upbeat about business globalization. He said, “A global company cannot afford to be racist because you cannot sell your products all over the world without goodwill. They must be multicultural and multinational. Globalization opens eyes. Therefore, it’s hard to behave like a dictator because dictators can only operate in darkness.” Peres insisted that the world cannot thrive by neglecting the feminine half of nature. “Men will not stop warring. Women will not stop pacifying; they know that wars are unhealthy.”
Now…as we embark upon yet another episode in the ongoing Mideast peace talks, we see Israel releasing Palestinian prisoners while also announcing plans to build another 1200 settlement homes in the West Bank. What’s going on here? Is talk of peace part of the real bait and switch Israeli strategy of delegitimizing any sort of two-state solution or is it, as some say, a strategy to pacify the Israeli far right, so that a totally unexpected peace can triumph? Just about everyone is betting on the former. But, as you’ll see with this blog post from “Haaretz”, perhaps the majority of the Israeli people really do want peace. They just haven’t wanted it bad enough yet; they haven’t had the will. What do you think? Does the two-state solution matter to the United States, global business, the world?