Analysis: Elections far, far away, except on Planet Herzliya

There is only one small problem for those politicians. It is called reality, and it exists outside the conference.

Herzliya Conference 2016  (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Herzliya Conference 2016
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Somewhere on Planet Herzliya, there must be an election looming.
That is the impression attendees of the annual Herzliya Conference would have received from listening to the country’s politicians this week.
They heard former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon announce his candidacy for prime minister, former prime minister Ehud Barak hint that he might make a comeback, former foreign minister Tzipi Livni announce the formation of a new party, and former finance minister Yair Lapid announce a seven-point plan for his premiership, as if he had already been elected.
There is only one small problem for those politicians. It is called reality, and it exists outside the conference.
In the real world, Benjamin Netanyahu is still prime minister, whether they like it or not.
He has a relatively homogeneous government, and he will almost certainly pass a two-year budget by the end of the year, which could keep him in office until 2019.
Along the way, he will pass David Ben-Gurion’s record on September 23, 2018, becoming the nation’s longest-serving prime minister.
The good news for the contenders to the throne who spoke in Herzliya is they will have plenty of time to prepare for the next race. That means they can already start bickering now over who will lead the party that will be the main challenger to the Likud.
Will it be a former IDF chief like Benny Gantz or Gabi Ashkenazi, a veteran making a comeback like Ehud Barak, someone doing well in the polls like Lapid, or the leader of the Labor Party? Labor was supposed to set a date for its leadership race Thursday but that deadline passed – unsurprisingly – unmet.
Livni told the conference she wants an open primary in which the public at large can choose the candidate who will face off against Netanyahu. But she is presuming that the main challenge for the prime minister will come from the Center-Left, and that might not be so.
She made a point of praising Ya’alon’s decision to fight for key values the two of them share. But Livni then proceeded to attack him from the Left on the Palestinian issue.
That could prove unwise if the easiest way to get rid of Netanyahu is actually to beat him from neither the Right nor the Left, but exactly where he is now, which is where Israelis apparently are, too. Ya’alon appeared to do that when he attacked Netanyahu on issues like Iran and political corruption but did not mention the Palestinians.
Netanyahu was a no-show at the conference. Perhaps if there had been an election ahead, he would have shown up and taken advantage of its prime time stage.
But Netanyahu knows that the next race is far, far away – except perhaps on Planet Herzliya.