Right from wrong: The lost-cause campaign to challenge PM

The results of the Army Radio poll are anything but Earth-shattering.

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu listens to Avichai Mandelblit (photo credit: ABIR SULTAN/POOL/VIA REUTERS)
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu listens to Avichai Mandelblit
 According to an Army Radio poll released Tuesday, the Likud Party will lose four Knesset seats if Attorney- General Avichai Mandelblit decides next month to indict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for bribery. As is characteristic of most such surveys, this one is not only unreliable; it belies its political motivation.
To achieve Army Radio’s desired outcome that Netanyahu’s popularity is in peril, the pollsters – in this case, the Midgam and iPanel research companies – posed two questions to respondents. The first was straightforward, asking, “Which party would you vote for if elections were held today?” The second was, “If Mandelblit decides to indict Netanyahu before the elections, which party will you vote for [on April 9]?” The results indicated a discrepancy in the number of seats that would be won – pending an indictment – by five of the 14 parties running. Likud, according to the poll, would be reduced from 29 mandates to 25; Israel Resilience would increase its mandates from 13 to 14; ditto for Yesh Atid; and both Kulanu and Yisrael Beytenu would each gain six seats, as opposed to five. The other nine parties purportedly would not be affected.
Aside from being mind-numbingly boring – as it shows that Netanyahu and his party are still way ahead of their rivals – the poll reveals something interesting about the agenda behind it.
With the Left in shambles – and intent on seeing Netanyahu sent to jail – the rest of the “anybody but Bibi” camp has been grasping at straws in order to present an electoral alternative to the long-standing Likud-led government.
Disgruntled former Likud politicians, retired IDF generals and other bubble-dwellers vying for a place at the table, are desperate to come up with a formula that will guarantee their own aggrandizement at Netanyahu’s expense.
The only magic potion they have managed to conjure up, however, is one that has been tried repeatedly in the past and failed: aiming for the so-called “center.”
The reason this endeavor is futile is that the majority of the Israeli public has come to consider Likud as the true center. Just ask any right-winger who views Netanyahu as “too soft” on Hamas in Gaza.
Not a single such voter is going to cast a ballot for a party to the Left of Likud. And those who opt for the New Right Party established by Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, who split from Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) to provide a more religiously inclusive answer to Likud malcontents – aspire to a Netanyahu-led coalition.
Which brings us back to the poll. The parties that it showed stand to benefit from an indictment of the prime minister are the ones simultaneously distancing themselves from the fractured, failed Left and paying some form of lip service to its idiotic ideology.
You know, the fantasy that an Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 borders will cause Fatah and Hamas to lay down their arms and renege on their vow to annihilate the Jewish state.
OH, AND the other delusion is that greater government control and intervention will solve the problem of low wages, high prices and lack of competition in the marketplace.
Both fairy tales have been exposed as figments of a Utopian imagination. And Israelis, as a rule, are realists.
This is why the leaders of the four parties – whose poll numbers increased when respondents were asked how they would vote in the event that Netanyahu is indicted – are trying to sell the public a double bill of goods.
On one hand, they are camouflaging their platforms’ resemblance to Likud policy; on the other, they are conveying the message that they will implement Likud policy better.
Take former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz, for instance, who registered his new party, Israel Resilience, less than a month ago. It was clear from the outset that Gantz was going to be an “aim for the center” kind of candidate.
When approached by a reporter at the funeral of renowned left-wing author Amos Oz, Gantz said, “Left or Right, it doesn’t matter. It’s all about Israel.”
For the next two weeks, Gantz kept silent, preferring to let his beautiful blue eyes do the talking and keep in check any other nonsense that might slip out of his mouth.
The next time he spoke publicly was on January 14, when he told a group of Druze activists opposed to the recently ratified “Basic Law: Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People” that he “will do everything in [his] power to fix [it].”
A few days later, Gantz released four campaign videos. The first three, under the heading, “Only the strong survive,” underscore his military accomplishments. One boasts that during Operation Protective Edge in 2014, “parts of Gaza were sent back to the Stone Age.” Another proudly displays the number of terrorists (1,364) killed by the IDF under his command during the war.
The third broadcasts footage of the 2012 strike on Hamas honcho Ahmed Jabari, the arch-terrorist who masterminded the abduction of Cpl. Gilad Shalit.
As if catching himself in the act of possibly antagonizing any pacifists, Gantz declares in the fourth clip, “It is not shameful to strive for peace. In another 25 years, do we still want to be sending our children off to fight? No. What will we tell them? That we didn’t do anything? That we didn’t try? I can’t accept that there will be an entire generation here without hope. It can be different here.”
To illustrate that his promise of hope and change is not a mere pipe dream, Gantz uses photos from the 1970s of Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin’s peace summit with Egyptian president Anwar Sadat, and of Netanyahu’s meeting with PLO chief Yasser Arafat 20 years later. I guess Gantz didn’t realize that those images actually prove that Likud leaders were “striving for peace” decades before he decided to run for office.
THEN THERE’S Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid, who served as finance minister in Netanyahu’s last government. Formerly a TV journalist, Lapid entered politics in 2012 on the proverbial “let’s replace Bibi with new blood” ticket. Being a household name, and handsome to boot, Lapid did extremely well in the election. But his popularity waned when the public realized that his definition of a “centrist” is someone who is all things to all people. Like Gantz, Lapid has been flaunting his credentials as a Zionist patriot, while attacking the Nation-State Law.
“It is important that there be a law that conforms to the values of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state,” Lapid wrote on Facebook, claiming that his party, when in power, will amend the bill.
Perhaps he needs a refresher course in reading comprehension, because the law in question already does conform to democratic Jewish values.
Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, formerly of Likud, became popular for liberalizing the cellphone market during his 2009- 2013 tenure as communications minister.
He established Kulanu at the end of 2014, and had a powerful showing in the 2015 elections.
But because he is more of a socialist than a capitalist – with welfare-state leanings and an anti-income-inequality outlook – he has been unable or unwilling to repeat the successful free-market policy that led to the lowering of cellphone bills. In Kahlon’s case, being in the “center” means believing in economic la-la land. His current campaign slogan – “Only Kahlon cares” – is all you need to know.
Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman is in a different category from the other three, because he is openly attacking Likud from the Right and accusing Netanyahu of “surrender to terrorism.”
In 2016, the former Likud politician announced that if he were defense minister, he would give Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh 48 hours to return the bodies of IDF soldiers Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul – killed and abducted by Hamas terrorists during Operation Protective Edge – or be assassinated.
Well, shortly after that, Netanyahu gave Liberman the defense portfolio.
Two years later, the young men’s bodies still remain in Gaza, and Haniyeh is walking around alive and well. Liberman, who has been known as a coalition “kingmaker,” thought that his recent resignation, which triggered the dissolution of the current government, would boost his standing in the upcoming election. His poll numbers indicate otherwise.
The results of the Army Radio poll, then, are anything but Earth-shattering. They simply serve to reinforce what everybody already knows: that nothing short of Netanyahu’s sudden death is going to alter the political map.
Meanwhile, the claims to fame of the above four stooges – who may or may not gain a seat if Mandelblit decides to turn the flimsy charges against Netanyahu into an indictment – place each on the Likud spectrum.
There’s irony for you.