The pitfalls of postponing going to the polls - Analysis

Like former IDF Chief of Staff Shaul Mofaz, Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz seems unlikely to replace Netanyahu. Gantz, however, has one thing Mofaz didn't. A date.

Alternate Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Benny Gantz at the weekly cabinet meeting, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jerusalem on June 28, 2020. (photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)
Alternate Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Benny Gantz at the weekly cabinet meeting, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jerusalem on June 28, 2020.
(photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the former IDF chief of staff who headed a centrist party were overjoyed that they had reached an agreement to postpone early elections and make a serious effort to get along.
The agreement upset a new challenger who had just formed a new party and was eager to take it to elections.
Those news developments may happen over the next two days. But they also took place eight and a half years ago.
The former IDF chief of staff who joined the government at 2a.m. on the night of May 8, 2012, was Shaul Mofaz. The neophyte politician on the sidelines was Yair Lapid. The prime minister then and now: Netanyahu, of course.
Mofaz hoped he would join the government, achieve quick accomplishments like a bill to draft yeshiva students, and then ride the achievements to the next election. But, Netanyahu did not give him the achievements he sought, and Mofaz left the government in July.
The Kadima party of Mofaz and his career were destroyed by Netanyahu’s obstruction of his dream when Kadima won only two seats in the election the following January.
The two parties that gained from having the election postponed from September to January were Lapid’s Yesh Atid and Bayit Yehudi, the religious Zionist party that elected a new leader in November 2012 in Naftali Bennett.
Those months allowed Lapid and Bennett to crisscross the country and build their support and their party infrastructure. It is very possible that if elections had been held in September their parties would have finished in the single digits, but instead Yesh Atid won 19 seats and Bayit Yehudi 12.
Will Gantz follow in Mofaz’s footsteps and give away Blue and White’s voters to former Likud MK Gideon Sa’ar’s nascent New Hope party?
Or will he successfully remain in the lion’s den and emerge unscathed?
The chances of the former are higher than the latter.
But there is one major difference between then and now. Mofaz never held in his hand a commitment from Netanyahu to a rotation in the Prime Minister’s Office.
Because Gantz does, he has reason to hang on and hope luck will go his way. He could become prime minister if Netanyahu honors the deal. It could also happen if November arrives before the next government is formed.
If that unlikely scenario happens, history will not repeat itself, and Gantz will have the last laugh.