(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Imagine if two weeks before the election, Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog went to the AIPAC Policy Conference and addressed a massive crowd of Israel lovers.
No matter what he would have said, he would have received a standing ovation after standing ovation. He would have been greeted by dozens of Congressmen.
He would have looked "prime-ministerial," our equivalent of what Americans call presidential.
That term is exactly what Herzog lacks now, according to the polls.
Herzog's Zionist Union currently leads Likud by two seats. But when the question is asked who is fit to be prime minister, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu still beats Herzog by a landslide.
What does it take to persuade Israelis that one is fit to lead? Herzog answers that a leader knows how to get along with people and help them accomplish more together.
Nice response, but Israelis apparently don't buy it, because Netanyahu clearly does not fit that definition yet Israelis see him as a leader much more than anyone else.
The correct answer is what US Supreme Court judge Potter Stewart wrote about hard-core pornography: "difficult to define, but I know it when I see it."
Israelis need to see leadership in action. Israel Democracy Institute president Yohanan Plesner pointed out that barely any Israelis saw Ehud Olmert as a potential prime minister before he became one, but once he shifted smoothly into the position following former prime minister Ariel Sharon's stroke, polls found that Israelis saw him as a leader.
So how can he act as prime minister now? What he has been doing is saying over and over again that he will defeat Netanyahu. The Zionist Union is preparing ads boasting his military credentials. He even adopted the Twitter handle @HerzogPM.
Nice gestures. But the only way for Israelis to really see Herzog as a potential prime minister is if he goes head to head with Netanyahu.
There are two ways to do that. One is a debate on a national stage, which will not happen, because Netanyahu wisely refused.
A debate Channel 2 is planning for Thursday will have eight party leaders and two empty seats for Netanyahu and Herzog, who refused to come if Netanyahu will not be there.
The other way is by facing off against the prime minister on an international stage, like the United Nations, Congress, or the AIPAC Policy Conference.
Herzog had that opportunity, and he turned it down. If he loses the election, he will regret that missed opportunity.