Political Affairs: Are Benny Gantz’s gaffes getting to Blue and White?

How the final two weeks go will determine the fate of the election and the party that, despite all its missteps, could still win it.

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August 23, 2019 00:46
4 minute read.
Political Affairs: Are Benny Gantz’s gaffes getting to Blue and White?

BETTER TIMES for the Blue and White leadership?. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

This was a terrible week in a terrible month in what has been a terrible summer politically for Blue and White.

Party leader Benny Gantz would have liked the news from this week to be about his speeches in the Gaza periphery regarding how he could improve the security situation as rockets and mortars fell.

Instead, the entire focus of the news about the party was on the internal bombshell of the internal probe that Gantz initiated, and spent huge sums on, in order to determine who gathered personal information on him and is behind damaging leaks to the press.

Perhaps had the probe helped Gantz run a tighter ship that would be more disciplined, it would have been a positive step. Last election, Gantz’s maiden political speech was leaked, as were tapes of embarrassing statements he made in private conversations about his potentially serving under Netanyahu.

But instead, the fact that the investigation was taking place was leaked, undoubtedly doing more harm than whatever benefit might have emerged from the probe.

A Blue and White MK called the saga a “strange quagmire” that may have been blown out of proportion by the media, but should have never taken place – and could have easily been avoided.

MKs in the party could not believe that Gantz hired a company led by former Yesh Atid minister Yaakov Peri – who left the party that is now part of Blue and White on bad terms with its leader, Yair Lapid, after Peri was caught lying about his military service.

Ironically, in the same meeting that Gantz told Blue and White MKs that none of them were suspected of the leaks, he did not let any of them bring in their phones. And yes, that – and other key information from the meeting – was leaked, too.

Gantz was compelled by Lapid and others to deliver a terse video message downplaying the investigation, as well as the mole that was drafted so carefully that it was rendered almost meaningless.

The incident highlighted the rifts among the three parties inside Blue and White on a week when Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu could have been particularly vulnerable to their attacks on him, if anyone had heard them.

The questioning of Gantz’s judgment by MKs in his party followed a series of gaffes that also made them ponder his ability to serve as a viable candidate for prime minister.

There was his interview on Tisha Be’av, in which he spoke openly about a rotation in the Prime Minister’s Office with Netanyahu. That interview put in question his denial that he had heard a question a few days earlier about joining a Netanyahu-led government.

The first time, he blamed it on his “M-16 ear” that was damaged by noise from gunfire during his long career in the IDF. The second time, there was no gun to protect him.

Gantz forgot the name of murdered soldier Dvir Sorek, which will likely make its way into the Likud’s election ads, just like
Gantz’s almost too-unbelievable-to-be true statement during a Blue and White faction meeting that “the public is stupid.”

Whether or not the public is stupid, Blue and White voters are very forgiving.

After all those gaffes and after this week of such press, the polls found that Blue and White stayed consistent with 30 mandates, just one less than Likud.

One Blue and White MK explained it by saying that his party’s 1.1 million voters “are not shallow and could not care less about gaffes or moles in the middle of an election that is so serious.” That was a nice way of saying that their voters are so determined to defeat Netanyahu that they have a high level of tolerance for his only serious alternative.

MK Gabi Ashkenazi said he noticed a massive gap between what the press asks him and what he hears on the street as he campaigns.

AND THERE was good news for Blue and White this week, too. After all the parties shunned it ahead of the April election and left the party without a vote sharing agreement, this time Gantz scored a deal with Yisrael Beytenu.

Surplus-vote sharing agreements enable votes for a party to move to another if they both have votes beyond the amount a seat is calculated to be worth. Calculations are done to determine whether there are enough extra votes between the two to give the party with more extra votes another seat. The larger party usually benefits.

Making a deal with Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman, the kingmaker in the election, sent a message that Liberman could crown Gantz as prime minister at the President’s Residence a few days later.

Joint List head Ayman Odeh, expressing openness to entering a coalition led by Gantz under key conditions, also delivered a message of hope for Blue and White, even if his party backtracked later.

But the greatest sign of hope for Gantz’s party is the calendar in its office. It still says August, the month when voters take vacations, keep their kids occupied and try to avoid thinking about politics.

Blue and White’s campaign manager even allowed himself to take a week-long vacation in northern Italy this week.
The election is still far enough away that by the time voters head to the polls, perhaps the gaffes and moles will be long forgotten. Both Blue and White as well as Likud have saved some 80% of their campaign budget for the final two weeks of the race.

How those two weeks go will determine the fate of the election and the party that, despite all its missteps, could still win it.


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