Candidly Speaking: The crass self-promotion behind the ‘Anyone but Bibi’ campaign

The “Anyone but Bibi” frenzy highlights the absence of genuine discourse or debate over issues confronting the nation.

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December 16, 2014 09:16
knesset

Benjamin Netanyahu at Knesset disperal vote. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

 
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The “Anyone but Bibi” frenzy, now moving into high gear, highlights the absence of genuine discourse or debate over issues confronting the nation and demonstrates that this election is dominated by the machinations of individuals obsessed with gaining personal power.

The bizarre Herzog-Livni fusion exemplifies this. In pursuance of elevating her own personal political standing, Livni has zig-zagged from Likud to Kadima to Hatnua, and now to Labor. Polls indicate that in an election, her Hatnua party is unlikely to even reach the minimum threshold to qualify for representation. Now, Labor leader Isaac Herzog has stunned even his own followers by signing a leadership rotation with Livni. It is difficult to conceive of Israelis endorsing Livni, the failed politician, as an alternative prime minister. Even Haaretz wrote that “this agreement is so incomprehensible that it raises suspicions that Livni must have slipped something into Herzog’s drink.”

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A second tier of three parties which all purport to represent the “center” are primarily driven by the machinations of the individual leaders all aspiring to become prime minister. These are Avigdor Liberman, head of Yisrael Beytenu, who in the past promoted himself as the hard right-wing voice of Israeli politics, frequently lambasting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for being “too soft”; the zig-zagging TV-host-turned-politician, Yair Lapid of Yesh Atid, who rejected a merger with Livni because he was unwilling to rotate the leadership; and former Likud minister Moshe Kahlon, who heads the embryonic Kulanu party.

All three of these “centrist” party leaders are unencumbered by any form of democratic pre-selection of their candidates, who they will arbitrarily select for their Knesset list. They have also assumed for themselves the exclusive right to determine the policies and tactics of their respective parties. This effectively means that three individuals, unconditionally backed by their political machines, will determine whether they endorse a national or leftwing government – based on extorting the best deal for themselves personally.

Liberman’s support from the public was based on presenting himself as a hardliner in relation to the Palestinians, savaging all politicians who considered Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas a peace partner or moderate. Yet he has now announced that if it suits, he would align himself with a left-wing government headed by Herzog and Livni, both of whom continue to embrace Abbas.

Lapid has probably burned his bridges with Netanyahu (although in this cynical political environment anything is possible). His remaining option is to join a Labor government which would mean a coalition that would include his arch-enemies – the haredim, or ultra-Orthodox – who Herzog has proclaimed he would willingly bring on board. Lapid would also have to effectively reverse his previous policy regarding the future of Jerusalem and defensible borders.

When Kahlon was a minister in the Likud government, he was an outspoken hawk and even vigorously opposed a two-state policy, but now he is intimating that he is also open to backing any government. Like Liberman, in joining Herzog he would be obliged to totally reverse his former positions and even support the division of Jerusalem.



We are therefore faced with an election in which Netanyahu and Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett will be competing with Herzog and Livni. Yet despite the electorate having moved considerably to the Right over the past year, a left-wing government could still emerge, simply due to machinations of aspiring political leaders purporting to represent the center and who, unrelated to ideological or policy issues, will be maneuvering and engaging in seedy backdoor deals based on promoting their own personal political power. All share the ultimate objective, by rotation or otherwise: replacing Netanyahu as prime minister. That such a scenario is possible, despite the fact that the core support of Liberman and the bulk of Kahlon’s supporters are right-wing nationalists, is astounding.

Politicians acting in such a crass and cynical manner shamelessly proclaim their willingness to prostitute their political ideologies in order to promote their personal power. At such a crucial time, when Israel faces so many challenges and when national unity should be the priority, an election based primarily on personal aggrandizement reflects the extent to which our dysfunctional political system ignores and abuses the will of the people.

Many Israelis are undecided and feel alienated from the leadership or policies of the dominant nationalist and left-wing blocs. They are tempted to vote for any alternative or “centrist” parties. But it is important that they be aware that in doing so they may provide a mandate to political chameleons who are likely to determine the political orientation of the next government on the basis of what’s best for their personal political ambitions.

There are crucial policy differentials between a national and left-wing government with regard to security issues. Voters should therefore dispense with the fuzzy generalizations about security policies expressed by the various groups and pose the following questions to Netanyahu and Herzog and also to the purported “centrist” leaders Liberman, Kahlon and Lapid:

• Would you acquiesce to US President Barack Obama’s demands that Israel negotiate with the Palestinians on the basis of accepting the 1949 armistice lines, subject to mutually agreed swaps?

• Are you willing to agree to US and European demands that Israel immediately cease all construction activity over the green line, including Jerusalem and the major settlement blocs?

• Are you willing to divide Jerusalem?

• Would you agree to release further terrorists in order to bring Abbas to the negotiating table?

• Do you still regard Abbas a “moderate” and our “peace partner” while he continues his calls to violence and incitement against Israel; sanctifies terrorists as heroes; breaches the Oslo Accords by campaigning for the UN to set a deadline for Palestinian statehood; seeks to bring Israel to the International Criminal Court on charges of war crimes; remains adamant that he will never recognize Israel as a Jewish state; and reiterates the “right of return” of six million Arab “refugees”?

• Notwithstanding your support for separating ourselves from the Palestinians and ultimately for a two-state policy, do you believe it is feasible to implement it when Abbas has assumed his most aggressive and negative role ever; the latest polls indicate that 80 percent of Palestinians support terrorism; the Hamas unity government is still being promoted; opinion polls point to Palestinians choosing Hamas rather than the PA in a Palestinian state; and the terrible carnage taking place throughout the region remains unabated?

• Do you support another unilateral disengagement to separate from the Palestinians and if so, how would you visualize us maintaining security with Hamas in control of all territories adjacent to our borders?

A response to these questions, especially from the leaders of the “centrist” parties, would provide the electorate with a chance to influence the direction of the government rather than enabling the crass personal ambitions of individual politicians to possibly repudiate the will of the majority of the nation.

The author’s website can be viewed at www.wordfromjerusalem.com. He may be contacted at ileibler@ leibler.com.

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