Isaac Herzog has issued a secret declaration regarding a “Gabi Ashkenazi alert.” The alert is also accompanied by an operative plan of action, i.e. extending Herzog’s tenure as Labor Party leader by 18 months, until the end of 2017.
According to Labor Party rules, elections for party chairman have to take place within 14 months of a general election, in other words, by May 2016. With an additional 18 months in office, Herzog would almost certainly still be the party’s candidate for prime minister next time, too. Why? Because during the time of Herzog’s extended tenure, there’s a very good chance of another early election being called, which would leave too little time for Labor to hold a primary for party leadership and, as there’s already an incumbent leader, why not go with him to the polls? In order to get this approved, Herzog intends – together with fellow party members and the help of a lightning move – to introduce hundreds of non-elected delegates into the Labor Party conference. It is a plan that is causing huge internal havoc within Labor. Some parts oppose it; other parts want to have a share of the additional delegates for themselves.
In response, Herzog says: “I am not there yet. I have all kinds of ideas and eventualities, include holding a quick primary. The idea you are talking about is indeed among those being raised.” When will you be there, when will you know? I asked him. “In about two weeks,” he said.
According to my sources, Herzog is totally there. Some people are convinced that he hopes to go for this lightning move, getting this initiative approved before the High Holy Days (the chance of this happening is slim). It’s a time of year when many Israelis are out of the country, the establishment is drowsy, and there is fertile ground for political intrigues.
One of Herzog’s partners in the evolving process is Histadrut labor federation chairman Avi Nissenkorn.
According to the plan, among the 500 delegates to be added to the conference, some will be Herzog’s people, others will be Nissenkorn’s.
Why is it good for Nissenkorn? Simple: the Histadrut chairman is supposed to be coming up for reelection in mid-2017. For him, it’s better if the Labor Party election comes before his election, and not vice versa.
In this scenario, all the potential Labor candidates would help Nissenkorn get reelected, so that he’d come to the rescue when the time demands with all the Histadrut’s means and infrastructure. On the other hand, if the Histadrut election takes place only after Labor has voted in a new chairman, Nissenkorn would be left looking for friends. Amir Peretz, for example, could offer his candidacy and obtain the support of significant parts of the party.
Herzog’s initial objective in these preventive measures he’s planning is Shelly Yacimovich, the original contender, the primary threat. Gabi Ashkenazi and even Benny Gantz were a vague threat. Over the last few months, Ashkenazi’s vague threat has become tangible.
Herzog found himself quite panic-stricken. He isn’t blind. He understands politics and he’s aware of the eagerness in the eyes of many people around him as they observe the negotiations between Yair Lapid and Ashkenazi. Herzog, a seasoned politician, decided to take proactive measures. In one fell swoop the aforementioned move would block Ashkenazi, Ganz, Yacimovich, Ron Huldai and even Amir Peretz, if he should decide to run for the Labor leadership (plenty of people believe he is close to this decision).
The problem with Herzog is that he doesn’t understand that procedure, constitution and additional delegates to the conference do not constitute leadership. He obtained his candidacy for prime minister last time through leadership: he beat Yacimovich, blocked Tzipi Livni, shot up in the polls and became a real alternative to Netanyahu.
Not even 1,000 new delegates and 200 conspiracies would grant him legitimate leadership in the polls, for example if he doesn’t make his move and it becomes obvious that another male or female candidate can bring more Knesset seats.
Herzog would do well to remember Ehud Barak, who passed a completely fascist constitution in the Labor Party that turned him into a dictator like North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, a move that signaled the beginning of his decline and being spewed out into the political desert.
Nor is Gabi Ashkenazi there yet.
Even though it’s been decided to drop the case against him, Ashkenazi won’t say anything and won’t do anything before it’s all over. In this case, he’s right. In the meantime, all that remains is to enjoy the Barak tapes.
Behind the scenes, things are happening. Virtually all the players in the current political system are involved in one single mission: to get rid of Netanyahu next time round. It’s a common objective, even including the Likudniks. On various occasions during the last few months, there have been meetings between Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid and Kulanu chairman Moshe Kahlon. To be accurate, there have been four or five such meetings. Long ones. Some of them took place in the famous basement of Yair Lapid’s home in Tel Aviv’s old northern neighborhood.
Kahlon used to make it there on his own, in secret.
So what were they talking about? They were discussing the possibility of joining forces next time round.
The winning formula was: Lapid, Kahlon and Ashkenazi together.
Kahlon as finance minister, Ashkenazi as minister of defense, Lapid – prime minister. According to people in the know, the Kahlon-Lapid covenant is almost a done deal as far as anything in politics can ever be a done deal.
It very nearly happened last time.
Lapid came to Kahlon with polls that gave them more than 20 seats between them. Kahlon hesitated; Lapid himself wasn’t quite ripe for this wedding. Now, it appears, they are both ripe. If we add Ashkenazi to them, we’ll get a kind of bingo. On paper, at least.
This kind of talk has interesting side effects. One of these side effects is Yoav Galant. It is no secret that relations between Galant and his chairman, Kahlon, are not of the best (which has to be the understatement of the year). Kahlon understood early on the magnitude of the mistake he made in recruiting Galant and now he’s paying for it.
The chances of Kahlon including Galant in his list next time, too (if there is one) are virtually nil. He would prefer Abu Bakhar al-Bagdadi.
Or even Oren Hazan. Galant knows this very well. Galant is also aware of the various negotiations with his nemesis, Gabi Ashkenazi.
As things stand at the moment, Galant is turning into a human improvised explosive device. No, it’s not going to happen twice in a row. He isn’t going to let this bunch of people turn him into a carpet for the administration to walk over. Under current circumstances, there’s still the chance that in the end Galant will refrain from voting for the budget.
The only way to topple the government from outside is via the budget. Toppling the government by way of a vote of no-confidence requires 61 MKs and an alternative government. At the moment there is nothing like that here. Neither MKs nor government. In order to survive the budget vote, the government needs 61 hands raised in favor. Galant is the 61st hand. He might still raise it. That man, as we saw two Fridays ago, is capable of anything.
In the Prime Minister’s Bureau, too, they are aware of this extreme eventuality. Netanyahu continues to suspect everyone, including Kahlon, of conspiring against him.
He doesn’t understand the principle of cause and effect. He has not internalized the fact that the only way he can be relaxed in Kahlon’s vicinity is for him to cause Kahlon to feel relaxed in Bibi’s vicinity.
Kahlon, to the best of my knowledge, really does want to succeed in the Finance Ministry and really does want to make life easier for the weaker members of society. Kahlon has already been in that movie with the cellphones. He had no sooner succeeded, than Bibi decided to hang him out to dry and destroy him. Kahlon has the mental powers necessary to end his miseries and turn the tables on Netanyahu. And it is working.
Kahlon is not about to allow a repeat of this particular adventure.
The moment he believes that Bibi won’t let him do what he wants, he will no longer be there.Translated by Ora Cummings.