בני גנץ יאיר לפיד
Opposition leader Yair Lapid and Defense Minister Benny Gantz
Photo: Alex Kolomoisky
Opposition leader Yair Lapid and Defense Minister Benny Gantz

The center-left's continued infighting risks its very existence

Opinion: There is no lack of candidates willing to lead the camp, in fact there is suffocating overabundance of them but egos do not sway voters and fragments of parties unable to unite leaves the field open to a strong right-wing cabinet

Yuval Karni |
Published: 12.07.20 , 00:25
Amid an ongoing health, social and economic crisis, Israel teeters on the brink of a fourth election in less than two years with a bill to dissolve Knesset now all but approved.
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  • While the right-wing is solidified and organized, the center-left is a total mess.
    3 צפייה בגלריה
    בני גנץ יאיר לפיד
    בני גנץ יאיר לפיד
    Opposition leader Yair Lapid and Defense Minister Benny Gantz
    (Photo: Alex Kolomoisky)
    Israel's conservative side of the aisle, paid more than once for parties who insisted on competing in elections but were unable to pass the 3.25% threshold to be elected to the Knesset, resulting in a loss of votes that could have seating a solid right wing coalition. This time, the right will not let any votes go to waste.
    Now It seems the upcoming ballot, that will come unless Prime Minister Netanyahu takes steps to stop it, will be a head-to-head match between him at the head of Likud and MK Naftali Bennet's Yamina Party.
    MKs Yoaz Handel and Zvika Hauser, formerly of Blue & White and now sole members of the Derech Eretz faction, will merge into Yamina;
    Knesset's Coronavirus Committee head Yifat Shasha-Biton, who is very sought after by the various parties, after making a name for herself as an advocate for the business sector during the coronavirus pandemic, will surely find a new home or at least a higher position within Likud's list, and MK Orly Levy-Abekasis, who during the last elections ran on the same ticket with left-wing Meretz and Labor, is expected to join Likud – possibly the most drastic party switch by an Israeli MK in the country's history.
    3 צפייה בגלריה
    energetic Naftali Bennet, tired and grump Benjamin Netanyahu
    energetic Naftali Bennet, tired and grump Benjamin Netanyahu
    Then-Defense Minister Naftali Bennet and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
    (Photo: AP)
    But what of the center-left? It seems to be in shambles, gripped by endless infighting.
    Following the disintegration of Blue & White, the center-left's most successful political project in years ended abruptly.
    After Benny Gantz decided to join with Netanyahu in a coalition he called an emergency government to manage the pandemic, the center-left has lost its way and is desperately looking for anyone with even a hint of leadership and who could go up against Netanyahu.
    The problem is not a lack of possible candidates, but a suffocating overabundance of them.
    The major obstacle revolves around Yair Lapid's Yesh-Atid. The center-left's biggest party is still unable to increase its 20-seat faction according to polling nor is it able to position itself as a legitimate alternative to Netanyahu.
    Lapid has had a hard time as opposition leader: After the break up and up with Gantz's Blue & White in May, the party was shaken when Lapid's his close ally and friend, MK Ofer Shelah challenged his leadership. Now he is looking for a new political home and will likely be leaving the list.
    And now news reports released over the weekend indicate Moshe Ya'alon, Lapid's senior partner is mulling a partnership with former IDF chief Gadi Eisenkot who is perceived as a possible vote magnate for those wishing to see Netanyahu removed and a more moderate government installed.
    Eisenkot himself claimed he has not yet decided to join the political race and may only do so if and when elections are formally announced.
    3 צפייה בגלריה
    Then-Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon and then-IDF chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot in 2016
    Then-Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon and then-IDF chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot in 2016
    Then-Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon and then-IDF chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot in 2016
    (Photo: Defense Ministry)
    Lapid could relaunch his partnership with Gantz. There have been discussions ongoing between members of both parties, but the opposition leader said publicly that he would entertain the option only if he is the leader of such a union.
    Tel Aviv's popular Mayor Ron Huldai has also said he is willing to take the plunge into the political waters, and is beginning to collect funding to set up his own party or join an existing list.
    The fragmented left also has former general Yair Golan from the Meretz Party, the remnants of what once was the Labor and the ongoing infighting among the factions that make up the predominately Arab Joint List, with Ra'am's leader Mansour Abbas cultivating a warm relationship with Netanyahu, that has already led to his ignoring his party's regulations and abstaining from Wednesday's vote to dissolve Knesset.
    This chaos might sort itself out before the candidate lists are finalized. But if it does not, a center-left alternative to Netanyahu is very unlikely leaving the field open to a growing and powerful right wing.

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