Candidates battling for Likud’s top tough-guy title

The top contenders for party’s top security figure are MK Avi Dichter and Immigration and Absorption Minister Yoav Gallant.

Likud MK Avi Dichter poses as a Palestinian in a video for his Likud primary campaign (photo credit: screenshot)
Likud MK Avi Dichter poses as a Palestinian in a video for his Likud primary campaign
(photo credit: screenshot)
Several candidates in next week’s Likud primary are competing to be the party’s top security figure – or at least the second one after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has been nicknamed “Mr. Security.”
The top contenders for the post are MK Avi Dichter and Immigration and Absorption Minister Yoav Gallant. But perennial political candidate Uzi Dayan says he too wants to be defense minister, while MK Anat Berko is also running on her anti-terrorism bona fides.
Dichter, the former Shin Bet chief, public security minister and Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman, has come out with a video series called Habithonist, which translates roughly to “security guy.”
In the first episode, Dichter is shown in costume, wearing a fake mustache and kefiyyeh, speaking to an actor playing Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. The video is entirely in Arabic, and Dichter is known to pepper his speeches in the Knesset with phrases in Arabic, especially when he’s trying to taunt Arab MKs.
In this case, Dichter faces off against faux-Abbas and asks how much “the boy” – his spokesman Matan Asher sitting next to him in a kefiyyeh – will be paid if he gets himself shot by an IDF soldier. The Abbas character shows Dichter a chart of how much the PA pays terrorists.
That’s when Dichter dramatically whips off his costume and says: “The gig is up! You thought you’d keep paying terrorists, and Israel would sleep through it? The law I passed in the Knesset puts an end to that.”
The next episode is in the style of a documentary film, with Dichter speaking about the assassination of Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin in 2004, when he was head of the Shin Bet, spliced with footage of an Israeli missile striking Yassin and people cleaning up the rubble.
“We got rid of a mass murderer who has Jewish blood but also the blood of many Palestinians on his hands,” Dichter said.
The video ends with a slogan calling Dichter “our security in Likud.”
Gallant, a former major-general in the IDF who was Netanyahu’s first choice for IDF chief of staff in 2011 before ethical violations led to him being replaced by Benny Gantz, has an almost-identical slogan for his campaign: Security for the Likud!
Another slogan calls Gallant “fighter, general, minister.”
In recent weeks, Gallant has scoffed at Gantz, who is now head of the Israel Resilience Party, and his security record. For example, Gallant said, “Thousands of officers who served under [Gantz] know... he has nothing to say.”
The new Likud member spent the last Knesset as Housing and Construction Minister for Kulanu, but cozied up to Netanyahu and his eventual party early on, and has the footage to prove it.
In one campaign video, Gallant uses a clip of Netanyahu standing next to him on a stage and saying: “In the security cabinet, he uses his experience to help us with the challenges we face.”
Gallant also used video of himself addressing the Jerusalem Post Conference in New York last year, where he said: “In any confrontation against Hamas in the Gaza Strip or elsewhere, Israel will prevail.”
The Likud also has a female security candidate, Berko, a former lieutenant-colonel in the IDF and counter-terrorism expert and criminologist who wrote her doctoral dissertation on Palestinian suicide bombers.
Berko put her areas of expertise into focus in a campaign video where she was captured by Hamas and faced off against a man in a keffiyeh who interrogated her in Arabic – which came out before Dichter’s similar video. The man asks her about various laws she’s passed relating to terrorism.
“I’m proud to have served 25 years in the most moral army in the world, the IDF,” she tells her interrogator. “You want a country instead of us? It won’t happen. I fight the terrorists at home and abroad.”
The video takes a more humorous turn when the Hamas man turns out to be her husband, Dr. Reuven Berko, who says she’s ready for the next Knesset. Berko later said that her daughter wrote the script for the video clip.
“Anat Berko: Your security in the Likud,” is the closing slogan in the video.
Dayan, a former major-general in the IDF like Gallant, is running for the coastal region spot on the Likud list and has made it clear that he hopes to be defense minister from the Likud.
“How will the Likud get 40 [Knesset] seats?” he asks in a campaign video released this week. “The answer is Uzi Dayan! I dedicated my whole life to securing and building Israel... We need a quality list that will act under Netanyahu’s leadership in [the Likud’s] way, without compromises and conditions.”
During the video, a photo was displayed of Dayan next to Netanyahu in the 1990s, when the former was still in the IDF.
Dayan has also vocally backed Netanyahu up in his campaign for Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit to delay the premier’s pre-indictment hearing until after the election. In addition, Dayan testified in favor of Hebron shooter Elor Azaria in court, calling his conviction a mistake as recently as this week.
The Likud candidate has already made two failed attempts to enter politics, first in 2006, when he founded the Tafnit Party and it did not make it pass the electoral threshold – which was lower than the current 3.25% at the time – and again before the 2009 election, when he only reached 42nd place in the Likud list.
Dayan also has some famous relatives, like his uncle, former defense minister Moshe Dayan, and cousins, former MKs Yael Dayan of Labor and Yossi Sarid of Meretz.