Middle Israel: The morning after election '19

Get ready for a hangover.

By
April 4, 2019 22:39
4 minute read.
Blue and White leaders

Blue and White leaders, (L-R) Benny Gantz, Yair Lapid, Moshe (Bogie) Yaalon, and Gabi Ashkenazi, at a press conference, April 1st, 2019. (photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)

If you are a centrist, you will wake up Wednesday planted in square one. Benny Gantz’s achievement will be too small to form a government. Likud’s servile allies will lose no time showing they have neither the desire nor the need to abandon their master’s bowl of milk.

Blue and White’s electoral impact will prove modular rather than seismic, a rearrangement of the Center and Left that failed to dent the Right.
The failure to win will then expose the political novice in Gantz as he will try, and fail, to maneuver an unclimbable path to the premiership rather than lead the opposition with the conviction of a man with a moral cause.


At the same time, his eclectic collection of lawmakers will prove disjointed, and the more they will languish in the opposition some will also prove restless and unruly. Benjamin Netanyahu’s weekly sound bite, conspiracy theory, and red-carpeted globe-trotting will be to them as despairing as the blackbird’s return to the cherry tree.


The big quest, to seize the premiership and reboot the Jewish state, will make way for quarreling, bickering and disillusionment.


Then again, it will all pale compared with the hangover on the Left.


LABOR and its satellite, Meretz, will in the better case wake up shrunken by one third. In the worse, and more likely, event, they will lose close to half their Knesset seats, and in the worst-case scenario Meretz will altogether vanish.


Having originated in its founder Shulamit Aloni’s resignation from Labor nearly half a century ago, the blow Meretz is in for, even if it squeezes its way into the Knesset, will be seminal.


Yes, like the Jews who insisted Shabbetai Zevi was the messiah even after his conversion to Islam, Meretz will continue blaming Israel for the failure of the Oslo vision, which they had preached long before it was executed in 1993.


Labor, however, will finally sober, and ultimately concede what its former voters have been telling it for nearly two decades while defecting successively to Lapid the father, Lapid the son, and now Gantz, namely, that their elders’ peace formulas, dogmas and experimentations have failed.


Even so, Meretz’s defeat will be far from unique among our varied political satellites.


TWO CASUALTIES – a former foreign minister and a former interior minister – have already been removed from the gladiators’ arena to the political graveyard.


The latter, Rabbi Eli Yishai, has given up on his herculean, if quixotic, attempt to rid us of his nemesis, Arye Deri, our public sphere’s most firmly planted fixture other than the Western Wall.


The former, Tzipi Livni, has not realized, or at least conceded, the futility of her diplomatic plan and political agenda, but she did understand her dire electoral prospects, in light of the 3.25-percent threshold, which she stood no chance to surpass.


That threshold will likely fell more candidates, like MK Orly Levy-Abecassis, but its most poetically just victim might be Avigdor Liberman.


The big mouth who vowed that as defense minister he would liquidate Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh within 48 hours, is also the man who masterminded the threshold’s spiking by nearly two-thirds, hoping to block Arab parties’ paths to the Knesset. Now that very law might strand Liberman unelected while Arab MKs remain in their seats.


Liberman’s and Meretz’s hangovers will be the most painful, but some of the satellites that will avoid meltdown and remain in orbit will still face a rude awakening come Wednesday morning. Chief among these will be the New Right.


Education Minister Naftali Bennett’s replacement of the grayish religious party he led with a jazzy, post-religious alternative was engineered to siphon votes from Likud, and to sculpt him as an eligible contender for its leadership.


Judging by all polls throughout this campaign, this goal will not be achieved. At best, from Bennett’s viewpoint, he will emerge with about one half of his former party’s following, thus failing to conquer a swath of the secular vote, which was his grand move’s aim.


The logical conclusion from this will doubtfully be immediately clear to the commando-turned-salesman whose years among venture capitalists produced the gambler whose dive into a waterless pool will be made plain come Wednesday morning. Others, however, will conclude from his move and its aftermath that Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked is the New Right’s asset, and Bennett is its liability.


Such, in brief, will be Wednesday’s hangovers in the Center, Left, and the periphery of the political Right. The ruling party’s lot will be no better.


SURVEYING the TV newscasts’ arrows, histograms and pie charts, and imagining his approaching meetings with his prospective coalition allies, the paranoiac in Netanyahu will burst forth and assume command.


His first suspect will be Bennett, whose bad blood with the prime minister will be multiplied by his open electoral wound. Then he will count Moshe Kahlon, whose own electoral erosion will leave him feeling he has nothing to lose and everything to gain from demanding that, once indicted, the prime minister step aside.


Then he will look at Bayit Yehudi leader Rafi Peretz, and remember his confession that Benny Gantz, who made Peretz chief rabbi of the IDF, is “one of my best friends.”


Then he will look at Gideon Sa’ar and the rest of his own party colleagues, and feel that he, Netanyahu, is Caesar among his knife-bearing senators.


“The conspiracy has expanded,” he will shout, alluding to what he already maps as a plot connecting “the Left,” the judiciary, the cops and the media. 


“We are at war,” he will announce, “the voter has overruled the judiciary, and now leaves you with a simple choice: are you with me or with them?”


And that is when all our disparate hangovers will morph into one collective nightmare.

The writer’s new book, Mitzad Ha’ivelet Ha’yehudi (The Jewish March of Folly, Yediot Sefarim, 2019), is an interpretation of the Jewish people’s political history.


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