Will Hendel, Hauser pay the price for party-hopping? - analysis

Jumping from one party to another doesn’t add to the public’s respect in its politicians, because when it is done repeatedly it smacks of opportunism, not standing up for principles.

DERECH ERETZ Party MKs Yoaz Hendel (left) and Zvi Hauser confer in the Knesset Plenary Hall in April 2019.  (photo credit: NOAM REVKIN FENTON/FLASH90)
DERECH ERETZ Party MKs Yoaz Hendel (left) and Zvi Hauser confer in the Knesset Plenary Hall in April 2019.
(photo credit: NOAM REVKIN FENTON/FLASH90)
A little over a decade ago, Tzipi Livni was a star in Israel’s political firmament.
She went from the No. 18 spot on a Likud list in 1999 that only won 19 seats in the Knesset, to justice minister in 2005. She followed prime minister Ariel Sharon into his Kadima Party, and became the party’s foreign minister under Ehud Olmert.
 In 2007 Time Magazine placed her on its list of the world’s top 100 movers and shakers, and in 2009 she was just a hair’s-breadth away from becoming Israel’s first female prime minister since Golda Meir when her Kadima Party got more votes than Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud. Despite that achievement, however, she proved unable to form a coalition.
And then it started to unravel.
In 2011 Livni lost a Kadima primary to Shaul Mofaz, but rather than accepting the results, she switched parties, now for the third time, and formed her own list: Hatnua.
 Her party movements continued, and prior to the 2015 elections Hatnua merged with the Labor party to create the Zionist Union. That lasted until 2019, when the Labor party head at the time, Avi Gabbay, decided to end that union, sending Livni into retirement.
Twenty years, four parties. Although her name is being bandied about as a possible acquisition by one of the center-left parties for the next election, one of the reasons that Livni – who once seemed to have such drawing power – lost luster was because of the frequent moves from party to party. At a certain point, the public begins to wonder: who are you, and what do you stand for?
The same can be said of Orly Levy-Abecassis, at one time considered a strong electoral asset, and now someone who, if she would run on her own, is not in the polls garnering nearly enough votes to pass the 3.5% electoral threshold.
Why not? To a large degree because of her track record of jumping from one political framework to the next. She entered the Knesset on Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu list in 2009, but broke away in 2015 and formed her own faction: Gesher. Failing to cross the threshold in the March 2019 elections, she formed an alliance with Labor before the September balloting, which then teamed up with Meretz for the March 2020 voting.
In 11 years Levy-Abecassis went from Liberman on the hard right to teaming up with Meretz on the hard Left. And then, after the March 2020 elections, she left Labor and Meretz to later join the Netanyahu-Gantz coalition. Polls are showing that her political career is now pretty much over.
And all of the above should serve as a cautionary tale for Yoaz Hendel and Zvi Hauser, the two Derech Eretz MKs’ summarily dismissed from their roles on Monday night by Blue and White leader Benny Gantz because they announced their allegiance to Gideon Sa’ar and his new party – expected to be called New Hope – just a day after it was born.
Yesh Atid-Telem leader Yair Lapid, who ran with Hendel and Hauser on the same Blue and White ticket in the three previous elections, responded to their firing with the following statement: “Hendel and Hauser are joining their fifth party. This is undoubtedly an Israeli – if not world – record. This is one of the reasons that the public trust in politicians is at a low point.”
The five parties that Lapid was referring to in reference to Hauser and Hendel were Likud, Telem, Blue and White, Derech Eretz and now Sa’ar’s party.
There is obviously more than just a little sour grapes in Lapid’s reprove: Hendel and Hauser refused, as they said they would before the election, to support a minority coalition supported by the Arab Joint List, thereby depriving Blue and White of the premiership earlier this year and paving the way for the Likud-Blue and White coalition that led to Lapid breaking his alliance with Gantz. But still, there is something to his criticism.
Jumping from one party to another doesn’t add to the public’s respect in its politicians, because when it is done repeatedly it smacks less of standing up for principles, and more of political opportunism. And Israeli political history has shown that at a certain point the public doesn’t reward such action, but rather extracts a price for what it views as a cynical political ploy.
Hendel and Hauser both entered politics in 2019 with a reputation for integrity stemming from their decisions to leave senior and comfortable positions inside the Prime Minister’s Office in 2012/2013 – Hauser as cabinet-secretary, and Hendel as Netanyahu’s media adviser – over differences with the prime minister stemming from the handling of a sexual harassment complaint against Natan Eshel, who was then the prime minister’s chief of staff and the most powerful man in the office.
This perception of integrity was reinforced when the two neophyte MKs, unlike Lapid, lived up to their campaign promise of not supporting a minority Blue and White government supported by the Joint List.
Hauser and Hendel argue that joining with Sa’ar now is also an act of integrity, as they can no longer sit in a government with Netanyahu. But they would be wise to weigh their future political steps carefully to ensure that their image for integrity is not irreparably tarnished by serial party-hopping, and that their political careers – like those of Livni and most likely Levy-Abecassis – are not short circuited as a result.