Israel Elections: Michaeli the only true opposition to Netanyahu - opinion

I’m much more optimistic than others who only foresee a bleak future.

LABOR PARTY leader Merav Michaeli addresses a news conference in Tel Aviv earlier this month. (photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/FLASH90)
LABOR PARTY leader Merav Michaeli addresses a news conference in Tel Aviv earlier this month.
(photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/FLASH90)
 The list of candidates who will be running in the fourth round of elections next month is already quite clear. Anyone who was able to finagle their way onto one of the lists, did so. Those who were not, founded their own lists. In the end, the picture is clear. On the one hand, we have the fascist right-wing bloc led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu; on the other, we have a series of lists such as Yesh Atid, Labor, Avigdor Liberman, Blue and White and a few others. Netanyahu heads the fascist right-wing (after joining forces with Itamar Ben-Gvir, it’s almost official) while those who are running against him are neither Left, center or moderate right-wing. 
All of the parties that are not in the fascist right-wing bloc are normative parties, each with their own worldview. Naftali Bennett and Gideon Sa'ar represent the rules of the game of traditional politics, as we’ve experienced since the establishment of the state. The two don’t differ much from the other. They're in favor of a greater Land of Israel, of settlements, and the continued occupation of millions of Palestinians who live in the territories, with no chance for self-determination or national, civil and equal rights. 
The Likud under Menachem Begin, which I had the honor of representing in the Knesset, also held similar positions. Although he died almost 30 years ago, Begin still serves as a model of fairness, clarity and ethics. He avoided dealing with the most significant and critical issue for the future of the State of Israel: the status of the territories that Israel has been in control of since 1967. After the dramatic concession in which he gave up the Sinai Peninsula as part of the Camp David Accords in 1978, Begin agreed that Judea, Samaria and Gaza would be part of a Palestinian autonomy. What he meant by autonomy is difficult to understand. In reality, we continued controlling the Palestinians living in these areas. 
The moral dilemma here must have bothered Begin, since he was a decent person who believed in the values of equality, justice and tolerance. He did not, however, offer a solution to alleviate the distress caused by this issue. His son, Benny, who holds views similar to his father’s, is now volunteering to help Sa'ar. Together with his New Hope Party they are the real Likud, as the party used to be during the Menachem Begin era. But there is a huge difference between them and Bibi: They are decent, they aren’t crooks, they aren’t criminals, and they aren’t greedy. They aren’t stealing public property for their own private benefit. They aren’t racist and they aren’t fascist like Bibi is. 
Yair Lapid isn’t center, but neither does he belong to the Left or to the Right. He’s not right-wing fascist like Bibi, but neither is he ideologically normative right like Begin and Shamir were. He’s somewhere out there in the middle of nowhere. He winks to the Left, smirks to the Right, and beams at the center. He’s a little of everything, and that’s a shame. If he would just be himself he’d win the election and replace Netanyahu. Lapid has come a long way from his earlier years as a news presenter whose name everyone enjoyed besmirching, and questioning his suitability to political life, where he’s succeeded. 
Lapid had incredible success in his 2013 Knesset run, winning 19 seats. After, his party weakened and so he joined forces with Blue and White, which was almost victorious. More recently, he’s remained true to his promises and the principles that have guided him from the beginning. Yet even so, he still has not succeeded in passing the 20-seat line. 
If he were a little more determined to stick by what he truly believes in, and not be tempted into believing that the Israeli public has become more Right wing; and if he would understand that the public wants a replacement for Bibi, but not someone who is a little bit like Bibi, his political career would have really taken off. The public wants a leader who is not afraid of being himself. The public yearns for a leader who does not shy away from appearing unpopular, who wants to fulfill the public’s needs, and not be concerned with what he thinks could help him personally in the future. 
I KNOW THAT Lapid is not this type of person, but he needs to show us that he’s not. More than any of Bibi’s other contenders over the past decade, Lapid has the best starting point from which to reach the finish line. He will have to compromise with Sa'ar, Liberman, Merav Michaeli and many others – and also cooperate with the Joint List. He will have to engage in these complex and fragile political acrobatics, but he can handle them. 
Lapid has a great springboard from which to leap on his way to the top. What’s currently holding him back from closing this gap is his willingness to be almost, but not entirely himself. He needs to blatantly say all the things he believes in, beware of the Right, since that’s not who he is. He needs to stop pretending to be just a little bit Likud, since he’s not, and this is not where he comes from. He still has time to do this. Will he want to? Can he succeed?
And yet here in the midst of all this chaos there is one person who does not need to change a thing about herself. She is already showing her true persona and she has no intention of trying to please anyone else – not on the Left and not on the Right. She is consistent, sharp, acts without hesitation and is free of all pretense. Yes, I’m talking about Merav Michaeli
Michaeli is not yet a candidate for prime minister, but she has succeeded in lifting the Labor Party up out of the deep pit into which it had sunk. With Michaeli at its helm, the Labor Party appears in recent polls (which should all be taken with a grain of salt) as a party that will certainly receive the representation it deserves, and perhaps will even win more seats than it did in the three recent elections. The impressive path Michaeli is taking offers us hope for the near future. Now, we must ask ourselves why so many left-wingers and commentators who are hoping for Bibi’s downfall are attacking Michaeli and making it seem like she’s the one responsible for the center-left bloc failure to form a unified front. 
I don’t understand why the same people who are constantly complaining that the Left is crumbling from within are also preventing the possibility of mobilizing the maximum number of votes in an effort to strengthen the opposition to Netanyahu, and are also the first people to join the chorus that’s using Michaeli like a punching bag. 
What exactly is she guilty of? Does Michaeli need to apologize for the fact that the Labor Party looks stronger and more stable than before? If Meretz truly seems like it won’t reach the electoral threshold, then why not make the claim directly to Meretz that if it insists on running despite the risk, it could lead to the dramatic loss of votes for this political bloc. It’s true that Meretz is not a random collection of candidates, but a bona fide political party with a strong tradition and heritage. It’s completely understandable why they would hesitate before dismantling this political body. But what about the Labor Party? Doesn’t it also have its own heritage, traditions, history and contributions that were critical to the years leading up to and also following the establishment of the State of Israel? 
Why is it important what Labor and Meretz didn’t do before submitting their lists? I am of the opinion that Meretz will survive the upcoming election challenge by reaching the electoral threshold. I am convinced that Michaeli will lead Labor to impressive results compared with previous elections. I also believe that there’s a good chance that Benny Gantz will be given a chance to correct the big mistake he and Gabi Ashkenazi made when they joined forces with Bibi. All the others, like Yaron Zelekha, are just a bizarre episode. 
I’m much more optimistic than others who only foresee a bleak future. But what the heck do you all want from Michaeli? Stop attacking her. She’s still the most honest, consistent and determined person who stands against Netanyahu. 
The writer was the 12th prime minister of Israel.