The new Israeli Resilience party led by ex-Chief of Staff Benny Gantz offers the same tired rhetoric and no new ideas
Today, two uniquely Israeli currents collided in Israeli politics. First, ever since the failure of the Oslo accords, the withdrawals from Gaza and from South Lebanon (both with catastrophic consequences), and the rejection by the notorious “moderate” Mohammad Abbas of PM Olmert’s dream peace deal, a deal that no Israeli leader will ever offer again, there is no more left left in Israel. What there is instead, is wide consensus that until Arabs change into something else, something that bears no resemblance to what they are now, there can be and will be no “peace”, no matter what Israel does or doesn’t do. The second current is the periodic emergence of a politically minded Chief of General Staff in recent retirement, who wishes to parlay his military fame into a career at the pinnacle of Israeli politics.
Since the left does not exist and the right is firmly occupied by the longest serving and arguably most successful Israeli prime minister of all times, Benjamin Netanyahu, what is left is the so called “center”. From this “center”, so the theory goes, Netanyahu and his Likud party can be unseated. Into this political wilderness, currently occupied by the comatose remnant of the once-dominant Labor party and the rather new Yesh Atid (There’s a Future) party centered around the charismatic personality of the Trudeau-like ex-TV personality Yair Lapid, now enters the Chief of Staff (ret.) du jour, Benny Gantz with his newly minted party Hosen Le’Israel (Israel Resiliency). In his endeavor to occupy the coveted center, he is joined by another retired Chief of Staff cum politician, Moshe (Boogie) Ya’alon.
What, you may ask, defines this political territory, this “center”. After all, Israel’s economy is booming, foreign relations have never been better, external tourism is breaking every record, and the security situation is being dealt with as close to as well it can be dealt with as possible. There is no one answer, there is a trifecta of them. First, the center wishes to position itself as above the fray, as incorruptible, as having the greatest respect for what in America would be called the Deep State: the Attorney General, the Department of Justice, and the judiciary. The center positions itself as anti-corruption and paints Israel (with some justification) as having a corruption problem. Second, and this is related to the first, the center is simply anti-Netanyahu. In his debut speech today, Gantz vowed to continue every policy of the current government, only with him at the lead, rather than the soon to be indicted for corruption Netanyahu. Finally, and this is never said openly, but never missed by keen Israeli ears, the center is anti-religious and (somewhat redundantly) anti-Sephardi. To put it bluntly, the center is what in Israel passes for “white”, i.e. Ashkenazi and secular in as much as any Israeli Jew can be.
The problem that the leaders of the Israeli center, Gantz, Yaelon, Lapid, Tzipi Livni and (the utterly discredited token Sephardi in the mix) Labor leader Gabai are a bunch of milquetoast characters, who in their very beings reject Israel as what it really is: not Ashkenazi, but Jewish, not secular, but progressively more and more religious, not calculatingly passive, but necessarily aggressive on all fronts. Aggressive in its fight against BDS, in its fight against the “Palestinian” Arabs, in its unabashed declaration that Israel is homeland to Jews and Jews only, in its fight against the death merchants from Iran, in its promise to be itself: a reborn Judea, not a poor man’s Switzerland.
Perhaps a hundred years from now when Hezbollah builds universities instead of missile silos, when Hamas is a movement of humanitarian pacifists, and when Iran is a flourishing democracy at peace with the world, Israel can have a center. Perhaps that will all happen when the Messiah rides his white donkey through the newly opened Gate of Mercy in Jerusalem’s wall. Until then, as all the current polls show, Israel will be governed by a coalition of the Likud, the religious Zionists, and the Ultra-Orthodox, the only coalition that has been proven to make the necessary hard choices to make Israel the success story that it is.