The centrist illusion

Koolanu and Yesh Atid attract right-wing voters with their socioeconomic platform – but a vote for them is a vote for a Palestinian state

Lapid and Kahlon (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Lapid and Kahlon
This election should have been one of the most effortless contests the Right has seen in decades.
For the past few years, the polls have all clearly shown that Israel’s population has shifted rightward; Operation Protective Edge has only accentuated this trend.
The Right was already almost impossible to beat in previous elections, and this election should have only been easier. Yet the fact is that this is the most dangerous election the Right has seen since Ariel Sharon broke off from the Likud to establish Kadima.
The reason for this is simple: “Centrist” parties, which have a vested interested in seeing the very powerful Benjamin Netanyahu leave politics, are taking many votes from the Right by claiming they will focus only on economic issues, and will ignore diplomatic or security issues.
The two central parties using this strategy are Moshe Kahlon’s Koolanu and Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid.
However, a closer look at the lists which constitute these two parties, as well as their official platforms and previous actions, clearly illustrates that on diplomatic and security issues, these factions side with the Left. This means that though they try to portray themselves as neutral on such issues, if they were to win the election, these parties would rule Israel with a left-wing agenda.
More importantly, since in Israel the prime minister is appointed after building a coalition, he needs other parties in order to win. When push comes to shove, these parties will prefer a left-wing premier negotiating for the establishment of a Palestinian state, rather than a right-winger negotiating for Israel’s security – and they will not recommend Netanyahu.
Kahlon’s problematic list The Koolanu Party is led by a former Likud minister known for his right-wing views: Kahlon. For that reason, he is especially equipped to attract right-wing voters.
However, Kahlon has already taken back some of his own views, claiming the Likud was “too right-wing.” Moreover, a quick look at the list of personalities he chose to run with shows the party is clearly left-leaning.
The No. 2 on Koolanu’s list is Yoav Galant, a former IDF general and the list’s security-oriented candidate. He recently stated that “the creation of a Palestinian state was in Israel’s interest,” also noting that he was against Jews residing in areas with large Palestinian populations – meaning he promotes the expulsion of Jews from these areas.
Some readers might find these views legitimate; others might think that defining where one is allowed to build his home based on religious or ethnic identity reeks of racism. However, one thing is clear: These views do not represent the Israeli right wing.
The No. 3 is Eli Alalouf, a well-known social justice activist who has done incredible things for the State of Israel on the socioeconomic level; his diplomatic views are less known. When he does speak about them, they are clearly not right-wing.
For example, Alalouf has embraced the false left-wing narrative which claims funds are being funneled to settlements in Judea and Samaria instead of being used for social programs. He protested this funneling, even if many reports clearly show the money being transferred to Judea and Samaria was not very different from the funds transferred to all other areas of Israel.
No. 4 is Michael Oren, the list’s diplomatic candidate. Oren is one of the most respected diplomats in the country and did a tremendous job as ambassador to the US with an unfriendly administration.
However, in order to be a good ambassador, you need to be good at representing someone else’s views. In other to be a good politician, you need to hold the right views. What are Michael Oren’s views? Oren supported the Gaza disengagement and to this day, has yet to admit it was a mistake – even as over 70 Israelis and over 2,000 Palestinians were killed in Gaza this past summer in Operation Protective Edge, which many see as a direct consequence of the disengagement. Furthermore, Oren still speaks of the need to take unilateral steps in the West Bank in order to appease the Palestinians.
If this is Koolanu’s diplomatic candidate, and Galant its security-oriented candidate, can one doubt what the platform of the party really is on these issues? As if this was not enough, Rachel Azaria, the list’s No. 5, admitted that in 2009 she voted for Meimad, a left-wing religious party.
In other words, all the people Kahlon chose to put in his top five all point in one direction: left. Those who want right-wing policies applied cannot vote for Kahlon.
Lapid’s problematic statements Yesh Atid’s list is no different, with candidates including Yael German, previously from the far-left Meretz party, and Yaakov Peri, a former head of the Shin Bet and well-known left-wing activist.
However, with party leader Lapid, we also have some past experience that shows us how he acts when in government.
In June 2013, Lapid criticized Netanyahu for not taking enough initiative in working out a peace deal with the Palestinians.
Let us not forget that Netanyahu declared his willingness to negotiate at any time without any preconditions, froze settlement building in his previous term and even released terrorists with blood on their hands to help the so-called peace process.
Yet that was not enough for Lapid – though to the right-wing voter, it was already way too much! Lapid threatened to break the coalition if the prime minister did not take more initiative for a two-state solution, saying he would employ the “strongest types of pressure” against Netanyahu. He then went on to claim that this was in the best interest of Israel.
Just like Koolanu, Yesh Atid also abides by a clearly left-wing ideology on diplomatic issues. Those who vote for Yesh Atid strengthen the Left.
Voting for the Right While I am convinced that Koolanu and Yesh Atid have much less attractive platforms than the right-wing parties on socioeconomic issues, it seems they have managed to convince many Israelis that the opposite is true. But one thing must be clear: On diplomatic questions, their parties are on the Left.
As important as socioeconomic issues might be in Israel, there is no doubt that security issues must come first – as security decisions are irreversible and are truly existential questions for the Jewish state.
A Palestinian state would cause much greater damage, even economically, than any good that might come from some of the programs proposed by Yesh Atid or Koolanu.
Those who want to see the creation of a Palestinian state and the expulsion of Jews from Judea and Samaria should definitely vote for them.
However, those who want a strong Israel in which Jews are allowed to build in their historical homeland should vote only for right-wing parties: the Likud, Bayit Yehudi or Eli Yishai’s Yahad. Any other vote will endanger the ability of the Right to form a government.
The writer is an attorney and a former legislative adviser to the Knesset’s coalition chairman, having previously served in a legal capacity at the Foreign Ministry. He is a graduate of McGill University Law School and the Hebrew University’s master’s program in public policy.