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Why Politics? Yair Shamir in the Jerusalem Post

Published on: December 11, 2012

Why I became a politician

by Yair Shamir

Published in the Jerusalem Post on December 11, 2012

After the registration of our party’s candidate list with the Central Election Committee, I am now officially a politician.

However, I do not see being a politician as the goal, but as a means to an end – and that end goal is to contribute to our national effort and to improve this country for its citizens. I had the opportunity to enter politics many decades ago, but felt I could make the best contribution to my country in a decision- making position once I had gained experience in different areas.

I have been an Israel Air Force (IAF) commander, chairman of Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and El Al and CEO of Elite. Currently I am chairman of a venture capital fund, and I volunteer as director of the National Roads Authority (NRA), a member of the Board of Governors of the Technion and Ben-Gurion University, chairman of the board of the Shalem Center and founder of Gvahim, an organization assisting educated olim reach their potential in Israel.

I accepted each of these positions only after being provided with assurances that I could make the changes necessary to the company, industry or field. In the IAF, I oversaw the change to from analog to digital and greater usage of hi-tech in our military. In El Al, I oversaw the necessary privatization of our national airline, and ensured that it would not fly on Shabbat. When I was involved in Elite, I joined a struggling company with barely any profits and left it a thriving, thoroughly streamlined multi-billion company.

At the Shalem Center, I am proud to be overseeing the creation of the first liberal arts college in Israel, which will create a new cadre of future Israeli leaders. When I was invited to head the NRA I made sure my role would also include all transportation infrastructure, and a high-speed train to the South will improve many of the housing and living standards issues that have plagued Israelis in recent years.

In our small country, everything is interconnected; Improving our education system helps our hi-tech industry, which has had a profound effect on our defense industries.

Improved transportation lowers housing prices and leads to higher standard of living.

HOWEVER, I consider my work with aliya and absorption to be one of my greatest contributions. It is my firm belief that we should not give up on aliya and must maintain the “ingathering of the exiles” as a central goal and pillar of Zionism.

At Gvahim, we found a way to surmount the challenges facing Western- educated olim. I firmly believe that we have to help olim fulfill their professional aspirations in Israel, and provide them with a strong social anchor for a successful aliya.

 It is my hope that this experience in a variety of fields vital to Israel’s interests, including infrastructure and transport, defense, economic, education and immigration, has granted me sufficient knowledge to tackle our pressing national issues.

As a politician, I will always strive to remember that I am employed by the people to work on behalf of the people, and not the other way around.

Politics has become a dirty word for some in Israel. This is because there appears to be much cynicism among the political elite, and too much feeling of entitlement. To be a public servant should mean something and a politician should stand behind their words, not meaningless slogans utilized merely to win an election.

This is one of the main reasons I decided that Yisrael Beytenu should be my political home. It is a party which has long-term political goals which do not change from election to election and are decided not according to electoral interests, but national interests.

I believe this sums up the merger on a joint list with Likud in the upcoming elections. The National Camp in general, and Yisrael Beytenu in particular, have shown great courage and an immense sense of responsibility to attempt something which will move our country toward necessary and vital changes, even if it may be a gamble politically.

Make no mistake: Whether it is reforming the political and electoral system, equalizing the national burden or changing the housing eligibility criteria, change is absolutely necessary.

I look with great disappointment at what is happening on the so-called “Center-Left.” Not because we disagree on issues of security and diplomacy, but because it seems that this side of the political spectrum is rife with politicians who can not seem to transcend their egos to form a joint bloc to really give the electorate a firm and informed choice in these elections.

Those who talk of electoral reform and equalizing the burden have to demonstrate that the issues are more important than being at the top of a list for the Knesset.

American founding father Thomas Jefferson once said: “Whenever a man has cast a longing eye on offices, a rottenness begins in his conduct.”

As Israelis, we need to demand that our politicians put national interests ahead of political interests.

We cannot afford to tarry, there are great challenges ahead of our nation, whether they are in the fields of security, economy, education, diplomacy or immigration, and they must be dealt with during the next Knesset. If we, as politicians, can put the national interest above all, then there is no challenge too great for our nation. That is the greatest test, and that is why last night I became a politician.

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