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Why Netanyahu's A Failure, Musings Of A Top Israeli Management Guru

Professor Asher Tishler has long been a highly respected researcher in both Israeli military and business domains. It's high time for him to dish on those in the highest positions of power.

Making his pitch
Making his pitch
Naama Sikuler

TEL AVIV There may be no academic with closer ties to the Israeli army establishment than Professor Asher Tishler, outgoing dean of Tel Aviv University's Faculty of Management.

Tishler has left the university to become president of the private College of Management, and hoards of personalities came to pay tribute at his recent farewell party — military elite and well-known local business people alike.

Tishler is one of the only Israeli economists who conducts research in the military domain. He has such close relations with the army, in fact, that he has been privy to a significant amount of top-secret information.

At 67, and after 38 years at Tel Aviv University and a lifetime of experience with the Israeli business world, Tishler sat down with Calcalist to share his views about the Israeli government, or more precisely, about its lack of governance, starting with defense policy.

"The main problem I detect is that the army is never told to be prepared, nor for what," Tishler says. "Because you can't prepare for everything — Lybia, Iran, Sudan and Pakistan. Therefore, the Israeli Defense Forces have to manage by themselves and prepare for what they believe to be important because the government doesn't inform them."

CALCALIST: Are you suggesting that the government might not stand behind the army after a war?
ASHER TISHLER: "Of course they won't. This is why the army needs good soldiers. Therefore, I devoted a big part of my academic writings to making sure the army has good manpower, because they will end up alone. I don't trust the government.

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Tishler has a PhD in economics from University of Pennsylvania

Is that because of what happened during Operation Protective Edge?
A government is a board of directors, and the prime minister is the chairman of the board. His role is to lead and direct the government, especially during a crisis. In a board of directors, one of the first rules is communication. There, all they do is fight and worry about the short-term. They know they should let go of their short-term objectives and focus on a collective future in order to go forward. But I think they are just bad directors, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is a bad chairman. Their management abilities are almost non-existent. They make mistakes that cost us, those who elected them, too much. For my part, I don't trust any of them.

You focus on communication, but what about their decisions?
The moment there is a communication problem, everybody worries how they will look tomorrow morning. This way, Netanyahu might make decisions that matter to him only concerning the next elections. It worries me a lot. Look what's going on. The population doesn't believe the government anymore. I'm sure the politicians want to do well, but they're not good enough. They're not leaders, and they make mistakes. The Israeli government is not professional. It makes a lot of security-related mistakes, and soldiers pay with their lives.

During Protective Edge we heard how Hamas was hurt and deterred. Yet they fired until the very end.
Politically speaking, the government didn't take care of Hamas properly. The government didn't understand Hamas and its logic. They invited us to kill civilians of Gaza, for its own purposes. Therefore, the killings and the destruction weren't what was going to stop it from firing. But concerning the tunnel matter, I think good work was done.

The army said it warned about the tunnel problem, but the government ignored them.
Exactly. The army knew a lot about the tunnels and wasn't well prepared. The other side isn't stupid. They hurt us where they know we are less prepared. You can't be prepared for everything all the time. You can't win every war. It's too expensive. During the last conflict, the IDF was caught not fully prepared. But globally, from the moment the tunnels were discovered, they were very well dealt with. The army and the government worked nicely on this matter. If we would have spent millions on the tunnels, we would have left some other fronts clear, and we would have been caught unprepared there.

You've trained a new generation of directors. Do you see in them as an alternative to the power in place today?
Hundreds of people in Israel can fit the description today. But since they despise the government, they don't go into politics. You wouldn't go into a relationship where you need to kiss hands for 15 years and then have a 1-in-10 chance of going further because the rules of success are not linked to your qualities.

It is important to note that the era of Churchill, Ben-Gurion and Eisenhower has been over for a long time. The only exception was Nelson Mandela, who did two incredible things: He united his population thanks to his strong personality, and he retired from his functions as president because of his age. Even Ben-Gurion, who was the greatest leader Israel has had in modern history, failed on the second point and didn't retire in time. After a certain age, enough is enough.

Does this rule also apply to Netanyahu, who is celebrating three terms as prime minister? Is it just an age issue, or also a need for new faces?
Both. Generally speaking, I want a young prime minister. Forty-five to 50 years old, like John Kennedy.

At 40, you're not too young, and 60 is not necessarily too old. It depends on the person. But directing positions such as these demand a lot of energy, and with age you have less.

So what's the alternative?
Like I said, the time of great leaders is over. So it doesn't matter who the prime minister is, but he needs to fit the role and work efficiently. Great leaders such as Ben-Gurion and Churchill emerged in times of crisis. We live in a time of routine. There are not going to be huge wars. They are too expensive now. What is expected is to be efficient, smart, honest and that you don't put too much in your pockets. It's not that difficult. Just direct your board of directors correctly.

What do you think of Finance Minister Yair Lapid, who is not an economist?
A finance minister who is not an economist can still be a good minister. Lapid is a bad minister not because he doesn't know economics but because he doesn't admit it, which makes him very unprofessional. If Lapid surrounded himself with a team of serious people, that would help him. He would have long-term plans, and he could be a good minister. It's vital that a director knows his domain well. If he doesn't, the minimum is to be surrounded by people who do and seek their advice.

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