(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Israel has seen plenty of centrist parties arrive on the political scene with great fanfare and depart amid overwhelming infighting.
There was the Center Party, that could not contain the egos of Itzik Mordechai and Amnon Lipkin-Shahak; Shinui, that split following a fight between Avraham Poraz and Ron Leventhal; and Kadima, whose comical spats between Tzipi Livni and Shaul Mofaz became part of Israel’s political lore.
Does the same fate await the Blue and White Party of former IDF chiefs Benny Gantz, Moshe Ya’alon and Gabi Ashkenazi and former finance minister Yair Lapid?
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has people working around the clock to ensure that happens. Labor leader Avi Gabbay has admitted in the past to using social media anonymously to besmirch rivals in his camp. And there are many others on the political map who have an interest in bringing down the new political juggernaut.
Blue and White has managed for the most part to avoid internal political crises since Lapid and Ashkenazi joined two weeks ago. The most problematic headlines for the party at first were about its dearth of female candidates.
Orly Fruman of Ya’alon’s Telem party, who fell from 13th to 31st when Lapid joined, was caught on tape complaining about how the party leaders scrambled to find women to put on the list. The duplication among roles in Yesh Atid and the Israel Resilience Party has led to excess bureaucracy and confusion.
But Blue and White faced its most serious internal challenge thus far on Tuesday night, when the highly rated Channel 12 news led off with a report about statements made by Ashkenazi in 2010 that were revealed from the IDF forgery scandal known as the Harpaz Affair.
Much of the report focused on statements Ashkenazi made about people in the Israeli media who are unknown outside Israel. But one statement stood out.
The report revealed that after Ashkenazi was told in 2010 that his term as IDF chief of staff would not be extended, he told a confidant following a Gantz tour of the North: “He wanted to build his image. He thinks he has a chance [to get the job], the jackass.”
Those who know Ashkenazi say that is a very tame word for him. They say that like many career soldiers, he is a straight shooter who does not normally speak the Queen’s English.
“One word out of context said behind closed doors 10 years ago won’t change relations between the leaders who decided to band together to form Blue and White,” a source in the party said.
But that downplay cannot erase the very serious development that Ashkenazi, who is the glue that holds Blue and White together, called his party’s candidate for prime minister a jackass.
Imagine if Netanyahu was caught using that word about Gideon Sa’ar or the heads of Bayit Yehudi about Itamar Ben-Gvir. Chances are the story would not go away quickly.
If no more skeletons in Ashkenazi’s closet are revealed, no one will remember on April 10 that one former general called another names. But if there is a treasure trove of recordings of Ashkenazi ahead of the election, it can do Blue and White significant harm, especially if they are much more recent than nine years ago.
How the heads of the party handle themselves in the final five weeks of the campaign will decide whether Blue and White will emerge from the election battle black and blue or distance itself from the centrist parties of the past.
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