Blue and White leaders Benny Gantz (R) and Yair Lapid share words behind a party poster.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
The September 17 brand new election is moving into high gear.
Strategists are being hired. Parties are electing new leaders. Polls are being taken. And the Central Elections Committee is getting back to work under Supreme Court Judge Hanan Melcer.
The only thing that seems to still be missing is… a candidate to run against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Blue and White leader Benny Gantz is supposed to be that candidate. But he has been keeping under wraps and is nowhere to be found.
Netanyahu’s criminal cases are advancing, and Gantz has nothing to say about them. Security debacles take place, and the former IDF chief of staff is silent. The peace process is not moving forward, but Gantz has gone back to the mode he was in before he entered politics, when the only statements he made were eulogies.
To his credit, Gantz spoke at a pro-democracy anti-Netanyahu rally three weeks ago. He addressed the last meeting of his faction before the Knesset voted to disband itself. And he posted his outrage on Facebook on May 30 about the initiation of the do-over election.
Gantz told the national conference of the LGBT community in Tel Aviv on Tuesday that Netanyahu is making a mistake by building a cult of worshipers around him. Gantz warned that without limits on his power, Netanyahu will only become more corrupt.
By contrast, former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon is interviewed constantly, former prime minister Ehud Barak is much more prolific on social media, and even Ehud Olmert is addressing high profile events like Sunday’s Jerusalem Post Conference in New York.
So where in the world is Benny Gantz?
The answer is that like any good general, he is in his bunker.
Not the military bunkers where he used to spend much of his time, but a political one that is run somewhat like a military one.
Gantz is working day and night to prepare the strategy that Blue and White will use throughout his campaign. He is building a team that will soon launch the campaign and keep Gantz on message.
A strategy for a campaign is serious business. It does not get wasted on a tweet here and there when new developments break. Blue and White has foot soldiers like Yoav Hendel, Michael Biton and Avi Nissenkorn for that.
Interviews with top journalists have to be planned carefully during a campaign, and obviously carried out without stuttering the names of the anchors so mistakes from the first campaign are not repeated.
There are still almost 100 days left. Why waste any ammunition now?
And even when the campaign heats up, don’t expect Gantz to be the man on the front lines attacking Netanyahu. Ya’alon, Barak, Yair Lapid, Stav Shaffir, Tamar Zandberg and Nitzan Horowitz can deliver those blows. Labor will elect a new leader and Meretz may as well, and they will have something to prove, which will require taking a high profile.
But Gantz is likely to try to keep his uniform clean. He dirtied it once during the last election, when he accused Netanyahu of spending his time in cocktail parties and makeup rooms while he was in the trenches. Former Blue and White strategist Ronen Tzur – a political rottweiler – was involved in that speech, which turned off many voters.
Throughout his career, Gantz has never been the one to throw mud. His party’s strategists will undoubtedly want to keep his image true to his character. His every word will be measured and considered carefully.
Blue and White has found that the public is fed up with negativity after a nasty election. Staying statesmanlike, relatively positive, and yes, sometimes silent could even be refreshing. Those could even be the qualities that Israelis will look for.
And that is where Benny Gantz will aim to be.