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Attila Somfalvi Photo: Gabi Menashe
Attila Somfalvi Photo: Gabi Menashe
 
 

New kid on the block

Is new Likud member, ex-Army Chief Yaalon, ready to face Israel’s political swamp?

Attila Somfalvi
Published: 11.21.08, 14:38 / Israel Opinion

Let’s think back to a winter night in 2004. On a pleasant and clear day, a well known and appreciated admiral sat on a brown sofa at the Labor Party’s headquarters in Tel Aviv, shook Shimon Peres’ hand, and promised an alternative. At the time, Ami Ayalon was a great promise, and his voice gave no hint of hesitation. He knew what he wanted: He wanted to be prime minister. This week, the dream dissipated.

 

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Four years later, another general is joining a political party, Likud - Moshe Yaalon. He hesitates, he stutters, and he says he’s not even sure he wants to be there. To be honest, he does not have too many aspirations, he says. He came to help the country, to lend a hand, to contribute his experience. Politics is not even for him. He found his way to Likud headquarters after drawing on some deep mental strength, and after swallowing a pill that took away the nausea and headache.

 

Yet the hesitating general is learning quickly. The Likud is home, he says. I always wanted to be here, and not anywhere else. Yaalon also quickly learned that in Bibi Netanyahu’s Likud one must cut sharply to the right if he wishes to secure a top spot on the Knesset list, near Benny Begin. Yaalon learned that the bon-ton these days is “no withdrawals.” Nothing to renounce, nothing to give back, and no surrender. If the Arabs want peace, they should ask nicely for it. He also learned to repress quickly. The words he uttered about the Golan Heights when he served as IDF intelligence chief are left to history by now.

 

Netanyahu satisfied

When he retired from the IDF, Yaalon complained that he needed to wear boots while walking around the Defense Ministry headquarters in Tel Aviv, because of the snakes all over the place. He was referring to the inside politics of the General Staff, which he found repulsive. Now, Yaalon is about to discover that once in politics he will need to get knee-high boots in order to deal with the mud and venom in this swamp.

 

His hesitation – should I join, shouldn’t I join – hints to the kind of person he is: The insulted and hurt general who came from the army to politics to offer some help, yet has not forgotten all the wrongs done to him. Yaalon may discover that in the political arena he is no general or admiral, but rather, just another pawn who everyone smiles at, while doing everything they can to see him crash.

 

Meanwhile, Netanyahu can be satisfied. In recent weeks he brought into Likud the type of people that draw natural praise. Dan Meridor, Begin, Yaalon, and second-rate stars as well. The negativity and dirt have not seen light yet. They will emerge in the coming months.

 

Kadima and Labor will make sure to remind the public who Likud members are, and who Bibi’s friends are. The public relations consultants are already girding for battle. They waited thus for in order to let Netanyahu waste all his ammunition on his stars. In a short while, they intend to plant mines in the way of Netanyahu and his fellow Likud members.

 

One also wonders what will happen once the Likud Knesset list comes to light, and once it turns out that Benny “no withdrawals” Begin and Moshe “no withdrawals” Yaalon are high up on the list. One also wonders how Yaalon will be feeling once the primaries euphoria dissipates and it turns out that in a coalition reality, promises do not always materialize.

 

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