Defence-point.com is presenting for readers a series of observations by noted researcher Gabriel Haritos broadly entitled “The Israeli Parliamentary Elections of September 17, 2019, and the Greek Regional Factor.” These studies will be featured, over the days leading up to the election.
Gabriel Haritos, Ph.D., Researcher, The Ben Gurion Reserach Institute, Ben Gurion University of the Negev and Senior Fellow, Cyprus Center for European and International Affairs,
Both in the last election campaign and in the run-up to the elections of 17 September 2019, the strength and the raison d’etre for new parties and political partnerships will be tested. The catalyst for ‘political quicksand’ is the general feeling that Netanyahu’s era is slowly but steadily coming to an end because of his ongoing judicial adventures. Particularly in the center-left, since the previous elections of April 9, 2019, there has been an urgent need to find a worthwhile alternative political personality and party leadership capable of succeeding Netanyahu if and when the time comes. Thus, since the end of December 2018 the party map in Israel has changed in various ways and at a dizzying pace for the local context.
The main rival of the center-right Likud is the new Kachol-Lavan coalition, which in English translates as “Blue and White”. The name was chosen from the colors of the Israeli flag and was formed at the beginning of 2019, with the hope of succeeding the long incumbent right-wing government under Benjamin Netanyahu.
There are three parties in the “Blue and White”: “Yesh Atid” (“There is a Future”) led by Yair Lapid, “Khosen li-Israel” (“Resilient Israel”) led by Benny Gandz and the “Telem” party led by Moshe Gialon. The first has had a long run on the political scene, with the other two set up in early 2019.
The Yesh Atid anti-religious agenda
The “Yesh Atid” party under Yair Lapid, has a clear ‘secular – anti-religious’ character that advocates the complete separation of religion and state and focuses on issues of social interest. Its main electorate comes from the middle and upper income bourgeoisie of the wider Tel Aviv region, so that its political agenda does not touch (as much as it should) on issues such as the resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict or its international relations. Its critics have accused the party, and its leader, of a tendency for elitism and deliberate detachment from Israeli reality, deliberately restricting himself and the issues his party raises within the ‘safe limits’ of cosmopolitan, affluent Tel Aviv. .
It is a fact that party percentages are particularly high in Tel Aviv compared to the rest of the country’s constituencies. In the 2015 elections, for example, while Yesh Atid received 8.8% of the vote across the country, in Tel Aviv and its wider district it garnered 11.6% of the vote. However, Yair Lapid’s staunch public rhetoric against Netanyahu’s government and the demand to tackle corruption have managed to fill the gaps in his ideological agenda on how he intends to manage the various security and regional policy problems facing the country.
The retired general’s party
The party “Resilient Israel” (“Khosen li-Israel”) was formed by the former Chief of Army, ret. General Benny Gantz. Gantz is seen as the instigator of the common run in the previous elections of the “Blue and White” political alliance, and as the results of last April’s elections showed, as well as current polls, he is considered the main candidate to become a successor for the prime ministerial post. Although a bit less vocal and less militant than expected, Gantz and the “Blue and White” managed to rally votes against Netanyahu and the signs of nepotism in his political, friendly, and business environment. The opposition rhetoric of the “Blue and White” and Gantz himself turned more into personal pot shots against Netanyahu, but he failed to communicate clearly how his management of political problems would be different. After all, while he held the post of Commander-in-Chief, he was in full agreement with his current political adversary in dealing with the situation in Gaza and in South Lebanon, as well as in how he handled relations with the Palestinian Authority. Although it is known that his ideological origins do not come from the Left, Gantz suggests that the political formation he leads represents the center-left. The results of the April elections, as well as the current polls, show that the “Blue and White” voters are not particularly concerned about Beni Guntz’s personal ideological views. For the people who voted for “Blue and White” in the elections of April 9, 2019, what he called for was the restoration of honesty in politics, the fight against corruption and an immediate end to the long-lasting rule of Israel by Netanyahu. And it is indeed a feat for Benny Gantz (despite his extremely restrained public image and his embarrassment in front of cameras and the media) that he managed to bring the “Blue and White” to second place in the April 9, 2019 election, with only 14,489 votes difference. from Netanyahu’s Likud. The election of the “Blue and White” in previous elections was a purely personal victory for Benny Gantz.
The party of the former Minister of Defense
The Telem party was also set up in the run-up to the April 2019 elections under Moshe Ya’alon, who had previously served as Minister of Defense until 2016 under Netanyahu’s government and his is the third “Blue and White” constituent party. He is clearly more pessimistic about the resolution of the Palestinian issue at the present time, and had previously expressed his opposition to the Oslo Accords. However, his decision to step down as Minister of Defense in 2016 was justified by his stating that there were trends within the government promoting the annexation of the West Bank and the removal of important jurisdictions from the Supreme Constitutional Court in order to gradually reduce the secular status of the state and the civic life of the country. Thus, Ya’alon appears to be ‘more to the right’ on the Palestinian issue, the Oslo Accords and the ‘two nations-two states’ principle, but at the same time he is expressing ‘leftist’ views on the open issues of the connections between Religion and the State. It is no coincidence that in both the previous election campaign and the current one, Ya’alon avoided taking positions openly – apparently following suggestions by the “Blue and White” party staff, in order to avoid losses of center-left votes.
However, his article in the January / February 2017 issue of US Foreign Affairs Review, just six months after his resignation from the Department of Defense and his final divorce from Netanyahu, resolved all issues concerning his political vision.
“Blue and White” in the upcoming ballots
Omens are positive for the upcoming electoral race, featuring the “Blue and White” as the only alternative to be able to rally left and center political forces in the next coalition government. However, an indispensable precondition for this will be the internal cohesion of this particular political formation and which of the three trends will prevail: Will it be Yair Lapid’s anti-religious, angry voice, Ya’alon’s conservative views on the Palestinian issue, or the mild conciliatory stance Gandz maintains in his public appearances?
But beyond that, and while this article is being written, it is surprising to discover that Benny Gantz has commissioned a private investigating agency to find those responsible in order to clear up the phenomenon of information leaks from inner circles of the “Blue and White”. This fact, given the lack of a common ideology and experience of cooperation – and especially of personal trust among the people who will be called upon to co-manage this political formation – all these facts inevitably raise the question of whether and to what extent the “Blue and White” will be able to effectively handle the country’s governance.
At the same time, Gandz’s occasional statements that he would not rule out participating in a coalition government, in which Likud would also participate – and, in fact, more recently, that he would accept the possibility of Netanyahu personally being present – raise a number of questions concerning the post-election cohesion of the “Blue and White”, in the event that it fails to get the government mandate first.
However, if the intra-party rattles continue for a long time, and if the “Blue and White” is not the main body of the resulting coalition government, it is likely that the three parties that make up it will sooner or later follow different paths along the corridors. of Knesset.
On the other hand, if the “Blue and White” emerges as the dominant political force in these elections, the chances of transforming it into a single party may multiply – but always under certain conditions.
In other words, the outcome of the forthcoming elections is what will have a decisive influence on the longevity (or not) of the “Blue and White” and the renewed left opposition in Israel.