Blue and White politicians Moshe Ya'alon [L] Yair Lapid [C] and Benny Gantz [R] at the Knesset .
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Memo to the Blue and White Party: There are elections on September 17.
Every other party is taking action to do things differently in preparation for the new elections.
• The Arab parties are working on joining together to form a joint Arab list to make sure they bring out the vote and win more than the 10 seats they won in April.
• Meretz is holding primaries for party leader with the popular former MK Nitzan Horowitz running against MK Tamar Zandberg, and talk about possibly merging with Labor to establish a solid Left to draw voters from Blue and White’s left flank and bring more Left voters to the polls.
• Labor’s primaries for party chief on July 2 include the possibility of either the young and popular MK Stav Shaffir (who has announced she is running) or the even more popular MK Itzik Shmuli (who has not yet announced his candidacy) winning and breathing new life into the party, which has been on the decline.
• Likud merged Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon and his Kulanu ministers and MKs into its list with the hope that it will give the party a bump, and prevent Kahlon’s votes from going to waste on the chance that he finishes below the 3.25% threshold.
• MK Avigdor Liberman has certainly given his party a spark by focusing on religion-and-state issues and declaring himself the protector from allowing Israel to turn into a theocracy.
• All the other parties on the Right – Union of Right-Wing Parties, New Right and Zehut – have made it clear that they will do whatever necessary to run together to make sure that no right-wing votes are lost due to parties not crossing the threshold.
And then there is Blue and White. We have heard close to nothing from party leader Benny Gantz since elections were declared. Even on the night when the Knesset dispersed itself, he walked down the steps from the plenary and faced the media with a very passive and non-combative tone. MK Yair Lapid has been quite vocal with his “no, no, no” mantra, declaring that he won’t allow anyone to turn the country into a theocracy, and he won’t allow Netanyahu to protect himself from prosecution, and he won’t allow this or that. But how does he plan to prevent this from happening? If Blue and White fails to make any changes and simply continues along the same path, how will the election results be any different come September?
The changes that Blue and White have made so far relate to their strategists. Mark Mellman, the mastermind behind Yesh Atid’s 2013 victory, has been let go for this campaign. That is a shame. I know Mark well, and was part of that 2013 campaign. He is smart, humble, straightforward and filled with years of experience. He tells it like it is, which may have bothered some people in Blue and White. But in my opinion, his lack of participation in this campaign is not a positive move by the party.
Then there is Gantz’s political strategist Ronen Tzur, who will also not be working on this campaign, but who leveled strong criticism regarding Blue and White’s last campaign. Tzur told IDF Radio that one of the party’s mistakes in the last election was allowing Lapid to speak harshly against the ultra-Orthodox. He explained that doing so automatically prevents Blue and White from being able to form a coalition after the election, because there is no mathematical way to do so without the support of the ultra-Orthodox. Instead of taking Tzur’s word to heart on any level, Lapid’s spokespeople have been attacking Tzur – leading to Tzur’s attorney warning one of them about a possible libel lawsuit if he doesn’t retract and apologize for what he said about his client.
The party’s spokespeople being distracted by a back-and-forth with a former strategist will not help Blue and White win more votes.
It is healthy for the country to have a strong head-to-head match between two large parties and two strong candidates for prime minister. But unless Gantz starts speaking, and unless Blue and White changes something of substance and doesn’t simply repeat the same approach it had last time around, we may very well head into the September election with the winner a foregone conclusion.
And that won’t be a good thing for our democracy.The author served as a member of the 19th Knesset.
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