Blue and White vanishes with same speed it appeared - opinion

Blue and White appears to be following the fate of the Democratic Movement for Change (better known by its Hebrew acronym Dash.

TEL AVIV Mayor Ron Huldai represents the practical social democratic values, combined with pragmatism, that served Israel well when Labor was in power. Pictured: Huldai seen at a drive-in cinema in Tel Aviv last year. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90) (photo credit: TOMER NEUBERG/FLASH90)
TEL AVIV Mayor Ron Huldai represents the practical social democratic values, combined with pragmatism, that served Israel well when Labor was in power. Pictured: Huldai seen at a drive-in cinema in Tel Aviv last year. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
(photo credit: TOMER NEUBERG/FLASH90)
Blue and White appears to be following the fate of the Democratic Movement for Change (better known by its Hebrew acronym Dash), which, like Blue and White, emerged out of the blue before the 1977 elections, as a center party aspiring to replace a political bloc that had been in power for much too long. Within a year it vanished with the same speed as it appeared.
Another resemblance is that Dash was established and led by a former IDF chief of staff – Yigael Yadin – who lacked political instincts and experience, just like Benny Gantz today.
What is happening today to Blue and White appears to be the fate of all new center parties with dreams of grandeur, which might do relatively well in their first elections, but fail to gain sufficient power to form an alternative to the regime they seek to oust. That is what happened to Dash in the late 1970s, and that is what happened to Blue and White after three successive elections in the course of the year 2019-2020.
The only such party that survived for a while was Kadima, which was headed by a former major-general – Ariel Sharon – who had political experience and a “killer instinct,” but then vanished from the political scene following a stroke. His successor – Ehud Olmert – resigned after being investigated on criminal charges, and Kadima didn’t survive the elections that followed.
Back in 1977 it was the Likud that inherited the Labor Alignment – and Dash became politically irrelevant, since the new prime minister, Menachem Begin, had a parliamentary majority without it.
TODAY, IT is not clear who will inherit the Netanyahu-led Likud, should the results of the elections on March 23, 2021, make this a realistic option. Who, within the “just not Bibi” camp, will be able to form a stable government, made up of a diverse group of right, left and center parties, all of which believe that a change is vital, not necessarily for ideological reasons, but, rather, to rid Israel of a corrupt regime based on the personality cult of a man whose trial on three criminal indictments is about to begin, who has managed to shake the democratic foundations of the state, as well as its social cohesion in the last few years?
I assume that the man who will form such a government will be one of the three right-wing leaders – Gideon Sa’ar, Naftali Bennett or Avigdor Liberman – all of whom believe that Netanyahu must go, and share very negative personal experiences serving under him.
Of the three, only Bennett refuses to say today that under no circumstances will he join another government led by Netanyahu.
The non-right-wing parties that are natural candidates to join this government will be Yesh Atid (which is unlikely to lead it, even if it will gain more votes than any one of the three right-wing parties), Ron Huldai’s The Israelis, Blue and White (if it survives), the Labor Party (if it survives), Meretz (if it survives), or any new center-left combination that might replace them within the next month.
In the current situation, my inclination, as a social democrat, is to vote for Huldai’s new party, even though at the moment it is not clear who else, besides Avi Nissenkorn – who left Blue and White and the Justice Ministry to do so – will join.
Unless by some miracle the post-Amir Peretz Labor Party will return to life, I am hoping that several of the more effective former MKs from the Labor Party might join Huldai’s party.
Though neither Huldai nor Nissenkorn are charismatic leaders, they are both hardworking and experienced politicians – Huldai, after serving for 22 years as an outstanding mayor of Tel Aviv, and Nissenkorn, after serving as chairman of the Histadrut labor federation for five years, and as an impressive justice minister for seven months, in the impossible emergency unity government, under very difficult conditions.
In my opinion they both represent the practical social democratic values, combined with pragmatism, that served Israel well when Labor was in power for many years in the past.
I believe that these qualities will serve them and the citizens of the State of Israel well, should they be part of a new right/left/center government (without the Likud), which will hopefully be formed after the elections, and will have the task of solving some of the serious problems left behind by Netanyahu’s much too long period as prime minister.
AFTER FORMER IDF chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot decided not to enter politics at this juncture, is there any substantial Mizrahi personality – with or without political experience – who will consider joining Huldai? One candidate I can think of is Prof. Yaron Zelekha (who is of Iraqi origin), who recently formed a new party called The Economic Party.
Zelekha is a former accountant-general in the Finance Ministry who worked closely with Netanyahu, but in recent years has been an outspoken critic of his economic policy. He played an active part in the 2011 social protest, criticized the Natural Gas Outline, which benefited the gas tycoons rather than the Israeli public, and has strongly attacked the government’s handling of the economic consequences of its management of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In his talk show on the Knesset TV Channel, Mishkan Laila, last Thursday evening, Dr. Hani Zubida – a radical socialist Mizrahi, who struggles for the rights of Mizrahim, Ethiopians and Arabs in the face of alleged persistent discrimination by the old Ashkenazi elites against them – commented that the leaders of all the parties in the “just not Bibi” camp, but especially of the new parties, are from these old Ashkenazi elites.
He is especially vicious in his attacks on Huldai, whom he accuses of racism in his dealing with the poorer, predominantly Mizrahi neighborhoods in Tel Aviv. He commented that when Huldai named his new party The Israelis” and called for returning Israel to the Israelis, he had only the Ashkenazi Israelis in mind.
I sent Zubida an angry message in which I commented that nobody is stopping Mizrahi men, who are not supporters of the Likud or of Shas, from creating their own “just not Bibi” party. If they had fire in their bellies they would act, and no one would stop them.
However, the truth is that most Mizrahim in Israel today are either Bibi-ists, or supporters of Shas, which is Netanyahu’s most loyal supporter, and I doubt whether a radical, secular, Mizrahi “just not Bibi” party would even get near to the qualifying threshold.
I expect that if Zelekha will decide to run in the next elections to the very end, he will join one of the predominantly Ashkenazi parties – possibly The Israelis.
Perhaps all of this is nothing but pipe dreams. However, what happens in Israeli politics in the next 75 days will undoubtedly be as fascinating as it will be fateful.
The writer was a lecturer in international relations at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She has written for various newspapers (including The Jerusalem Post), and worked with various leading figures in the Israeli Labor Party, including the late Yigal Allon. She became a Knesset employee in 1994, where she engaged in research and information, and contacts with foreign parliaments.