How can this circus end while respecting the voters' verdict?

Middle Israel: This can’t go on. If this country is dragged to an election every half year, the Jewish state might decompose.

Blue and White leaders Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid confer at a party meeting (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Blue and White leaders Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid confer at a party meeting
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
This can’t go on. If this country is dragged to an election every half year, and its government, parliament and judiciary are abused the way they already are, the Jewish state might decompose.
There is a way to end this circus while respecting the voters’ verdict, however.
The voters’ verdict is that Likud will lead Israel. On the face of it, the majority also crowned Likud’s leader. Well, it didn’t. In a different system, Netanyahu might have won a majority, but in our system – which he enshrined – all he won is a quarter of the electorate. He therefore cannot claim to be the choice of the people. Moreover, every second voter voted for parties whose one common denominator is rejection of Benjamin Netanyahu the man.
It would have been one thing if this huge electorate had been shrinking. Instead, election after election it proves rock-solid. Even after Netanyahu’s achievements in fighting the pandemic and in obtaining normalization agreements with four Arab states, Likud under Netanyahu has lost nearly a fifth of the electorate it won in last year’s election.
Where did the balance go? It went to Gideon Sa’ar, meaning that nearly a fifth of Netanyahu’s following agreed with Sa’ar that Netanyahu imposed his own legal entanglement on his party while turning it into an engine of sycophancy and a tool of its leader’s personality cult.
Whose responsibility is this plunge? It’s Bibi’s responsibility – and if he can’t bring himself to owning it then his party should make him do that, if not as a matter of principle then at least as a matter of expediency. For if his party doesn’t replace him, he will sooner or later lead it to its demise.
How, then, can both of these givens – that the people voted Likud and at the same time rejected Netanyahu – be reconciled? Well, they can – but before what can be done is done, two other things must happen. The first is a Naftali Bennett-Gideon Sa’ar merger.
THE ELECTION humbled both Bennett and Sa’ar. Unlike polls’ initial suggestions, neither even came close to emerging as a challenger for Netanyahu, and the reason for that is not that they are not eligible, but that they canceled each other out.
There is no difference between these two men’s views. They are liberal nationalists and traditional Jews, much the way Menachem Begin was (Netanyahu, by the way, is wholeheartedly secular). The only reason they ran separately is that neither could bring himself to being the other’s number two, an urge that in recent days also made them attack each other, even though there was never any bad blood between them.
So now the two men who wanted to be number one and wouldn’t be number two are a pair of number zeros.
The vanity the two displayed runs deeper than their failure to merge. To win, they should have built a party, namely a statewide network of branches and activists cast methodically over at least a year during which they would have cultivated a broad party base while hearing out and dialoguing with the public.
This is not what they did. Instead, they hastily collected candidate lists; bandied press releases, tweets and Facebook posts; and gathered assemblies where instead of listening to the people, they preached to them. That might have worked had they been rock stars. Now they learned, the hard way, that winning national support requires the kind of plowing and sowing in which they did not engage.
This does not mean they should go. They are both good people who took bold decisions and have previously proven they can be effective politicians. For all these reasons, the two should now merge, with the leader being Bennett, because he won more votes.
Then, comprising at least one tenth of the Knesset, they will be a force to reckon with, and in a position to help put an end to the vicious cycle in which Netanyahu has trapped the Jewish state. For that to happen, a similar merger must happen – between Yair Lapid and Benny Gantz.
NO MICROSCOPE will find a difference between, for instance, Yesh Atid’s Elazar Stern and Blue and White’s Benny Gantz – both paratroopers who served in the same IDF General Staff; or between the one’s Orit Farkash-Hacohen and the other’s Tehila Friedman – both modern-Orthodox liberals; or between this one’s Meir Cohen and the other’s Michael Biton – one the former mayor of Dimona, the other the former mayor of neighboring Yeroham.
The two estranged parties split over whether or not to join the outgoing government. Together they last year won 33 seats, and before that 35. Running separately they lost a quarter of that following. Like Sa’ar and Bennett, they too should therefore reunite and build a party, headed by Lapid. Their roughly 26 Knesset seats will make them nearly equal to Likud, and add up to a formidable parliamentary power.
Then, the two merged factions, jointly commanding nearly one third of the Knesset, will tell the Likud: Together we can form a coalition of nearly 70 MKs. This is what the public wants, and what Israel needs.
We respect the voters’ verdict and say Likud should lead this coalition. But we also think that an indicted man, and anyone one who libels the judiciary cannot be Israel’s prime minister.
You know what we know: That while singing his tune, Netanyahu is hammering at our democracy. And we know what you know: That Netanyahu’s game will ultimately end your own careers.
We and you also know that every citizen doesn’t want another premature election. We therefore say: Choose from among you another leader, and let Netanyahu focus on his trial. We will in turn give you four years of government: real years, and real government.
Amotz Asa-El’s bestselling Mitzad Ha’ivelet Ha’yehudi (The Jewish March of Folly, Yediot Sefarim, 2019) is a revisionist history of the Jewish people’s leadership from antiquity to modernity.