Benny Gantz (Image credit: Mark Neiman/Government Press Office of Israel [CC BY-SA 3.0] via Wikimedia)
Certainly there will be more drama before the Israeli election polls close on April 9, but the dust has finally settled on the process of political party merges and on the newest labels and personalities to take the stage.
It is unlikely we will truly know what many of the actors really believe about major issues, as it is likely that they do not know themselves — the main thing is that they are in the ring and someone is watching.
Two big stories riveted the public before the deadline for party lists to be submitted. One was the creation of a new joint list led by former IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, who in the past has declared that he would rather endanger his soldiers than hurt enemy civilians. Gantz named his party Choshen LeYisrael (Israel Resilience) and called his new list Blue and White, a merger with Yesh Atid led by Yair Lapid.
Every election cycle seems to bring the creation of a new "centrist" political party that would challenge the traditional right/left dynamic and lead the pack, such as Moshe Kahlon and Lapid before him. These parties are frequently led by relatively popular personalities from outside of the political world — generals are also common candidates, like Ehud Barak and Ariel Sharon.
Until today most have been a one-term phenomenon. Their place is usually taken by another "great hope" in the next round. These generals-turned-politicians usually contribute nothing remarkable — often they do real damage.
If in the past these cameo appearances were meant to challenge the establishment and bring “clean” politics to the field, lately it is all about unseating Binyamin Netanyahu. They have become the "never Bibi parties.”
They would never call themselves left, though most clearly are. Since the Oslo and Disengagement debacles, the word left is one that most politicians will not touch; Israelis have very bitter memories of their promises and cliches, and so one never hears the phrases "land for peace,” “the peace process,” and “peace partner.”
These mantras have cost too much blood and many Israelis have woken up. We are witnessing the rapid shrinking of the leftist parties — the Labor party of David Ben Gurion, Moshe Dayan, Shimon Peres, and Yitzhak Rabin is no longer a player on the stage. It is dying. This is a truly historical phenomenon, as much as the rise of the Likud and Menachem Begin for the first time in 1977 was.
There are only indications of what Gantz's new political party's policies are — they are carefully keeping their mouths shut. It is sufficient for them to attract enough “Bibi” haters to energize their supporters.
On the other side of the aisle, there is much to be said against Netanyahu. One can list many unforgivable sins that he has committed, starting with his vote in favor of the Disengagement of 2005, his support for a Palestinian state, his releasing hundreds of terrorists to kill again, his giving away Hevron, and more. The list is long.
Netanyahu has chosen leftist parties as his coalition partners, such as Ehud Barak and then Tzipi Livni, rather than those that his voters wanted — the smaller right-wing parties. He seemingly did this to have someone to blame when he broke his word to his voters. There is a very good chance he will do it again this time, as precedent indicates he cannot be trusted.
If he is prevented from office due to his current legal problems it would be nice to have someone take his place at the helm of Likud who has more of a backbone.
The other story that has riveted the public is the joint list of the Otzma Yehudit party, which consists of students of former Member of Knesset Rabbi Meir Kahane, HY”D, with Jewish Home and National Union. This was a merger of political convenience; they needed each other to pass the election threshold and win seats in the Knesset.
With the union, the polls are showing a gradual rise.
During the negotiations, Otzma Yehudit was treated by the establishment with scorn and hate not employed against our worst enemies today. They were designated by mainstream media as “untouchables.”
We are told that "American Jewry" is also disgusted with the Kahane followers; perhaps they are the same 78% of American Jews who in 2008 supported the “great friend” of Israel — Barack Obama.
I know the men running in this party and I know that their No. 1 concern at all times is the People of Israel. Their deeds prove it. Just as their teacher and rabbi were mistreated by the media and establishment, so are they. They, like Rabbi Kahane, are hated by the establishment but loved by far more Israelis than the media would have you think.
Why do the media and establishment hate Otzma Yehudit so? Why does the name “Kahane” clearly send them into contortions? They do not foam at the mouth when the name Arafat is mentioned. Heck, they — including Netanyahu — wined and dined Yasser Arafat.
Why? This question remains to be pondered by psychologists and others, but it is certainly an intriguing one.
Contact Shalom Pollack, veteran licensed tour guide, for upcoming tours at Shalom Pollack Tours: Personalized Tours in Israel. Click here to read more of this writer’s work in The Jerusalem Herald.