A full-page ad in Monday’s Ha’aretz purports to speak on behalf of more than a million Israeli voters who demand a government of unity in place of the present seemingly dysfunctional setup. As none of the seven political leaders depicted in the ad are members of the current administration, it’s not unreasonable to see it also as a call to unite against Prime Minister Netanyahu and his allies on the political right.
Each of the seven can be found in the political centre. (Of course, as far as Prime Minister Netanyahu is concerned, there’s no political centre in Israel. Those who oppose him are by definition rabid radical lefties.)
Four of the seven are former chiefs of staff. Two had also served as ministers of defense: Ehud Barak, a former leader of the Labour Party and once Netanyahu’s defense minister; Moshe Ya’alon, also a former defense minister dismissed by Netanyahu. Yaalon has recently formed a political party of his own, but in view of his reported lack of charisma, it’s not likely to get very far.
Of the two other former chiefs of staff, Benny Gantz, the leader of a new political party, is considered the most serious threat to Netanyahu. Yair Netanyahu, the son, has made it known on social media that as Gantz’s wife is said to be on the political left, her husband must be a dangerous renegade (or words to that effect). This suggests that the Netanyahus (yes, it seems to be a family business) consider Gantz a formidable opponent.
The fourth former chief of staff in the ad is Gabi Ashkenazi. As he’s said to keep away from politics many people regard him as a most attractive politician.
The three others in the picture are current leaders of political parties. Polls predict that Yesh Atid, the party led by Yair Lapid, constitutes another serious threat to the current coalition. He has served in a previous Netanyahu government as a less than impressive minister of finance. He’s media savvy, but the jury is out about his qualifications as prime minister.
The other two party leaders in the ad recently underwent a nasty divorce in public. Avi Gabbay is still the leader of the Labour Party. Until recently it was in union with Tenua, the party headed by Tzipi Livni in the joint Zionist Union until Gabbay surprised her at a press conference when he announced that the partnership was off. Livni has served in previous governments both as foreign minister and as minister of justice and is considered by some to be the best leader of the country Israel will never have.
The right-wing parties aren’t in one piece either. When Bennett and Shaked abandoned Habayit Hayehudi to form a new party, chaos followed. I think that all or almost all members of the Kulanu party in the Knesset (including Avi Gabbay), led by Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, have jumped ship.
Not that Netanyahu’s Likud is of one piece. The party has always been a kind of marriage between liberals and conservatives. The former, perhaps led by Gideon Saar, are showing signs of life, which worries the prime minister a lot, especially if several of his coalition partners in the outgoing government will lose seats or perhaps collapse altogether.
Even a pessimist like me hopes that the call for unity will be heeded.
Jerusalem 21.1.19 Dow Marmur