Ehud Barak (left) on Lebanon front
Ehud Barak (left) on Lebanon front
Photo: David Rubinger
Ehud Barak (left) on Lebanon front

Blue & White's campaign should focus on its leaders' military past

Opinion: The centrist party insists on focusing on Netanyahu's legal woes, which don't seem to deter his voters; it's time for the party's leaders to reevaluate their election campaign and pull their old uniforms out of the attic

Dr. Baruch Leshem |
Updated: 01.13.20 , 20:33
During the 1999 election campaign for prime minister, Ehud Barak recruited Bill Clinton's campaign manager, James Carville.
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  • Barak's opponent was the incumbent prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, whose campaign focused mainly on security and accusing the left of capitulating to terror.
    Ehud Barak (left) on Lebanon frontEhud Barak (left) on Lebanon front
    Ehud Barak (left) on Lebanon front
    (Photo: David Rubinger)
    Although Carville's campaign mainly focused on the economy, he understood the importance of security issues to the Israeli voter.
    "How can the most decorated soldier in the IDF and former chief of staff be seen as less of an authority on security matters?" he asked.
    Barak received five commendations for his bravery and operational excellence during his service in the IDF.
    The campaign quickly began showing photographs of Barak's military escapades and his awards for valor. Those pictures ran in campaign ads, with the voice of the narrator promising that such an experienced warrior would never compromise Israel's security interests.
    The leftist purists grimaced at these election ads. "Are we a South American banana republic with a generalissimo at the helm?"
    The campaign was a big success and even Netanyahu pulled out some old photos of himself in uniforms, as did his foreign minister, Ariel Sharon.
    Now, before the next election campaign kicks off, Blue & White decided to concentrate their efforts on Netanyahu's corruption cases and his tireless efforts to secure parliamentary immunity from prosecution.
    Netanyahu in interview says immunity? Never!Netanyahu in interview says immunity? Never!
    Netanyahu in interview where he claims never to ask for immunity from prosecution
    (Photo: Courtesy)
    The prime minister's interview on local television before the September ballot, where he promised he would not seek immunity, is too good to pass up. Blue & White see a ready-made election ad that can be run repeatedly until the March 2 vote.
    Except that Netanyahu's indictments have not moved his constituency away from him and polls show Likud is still expected to win 32 Knesset seats.
    One explanation for the phenomenon may be that voters who support Netanyahu love him more than they dislike corruption, but another and more likely reason is that many Israelis consider him the candidate best suited to deal with the security challenges looming over Israel, primarily Iran.
    However, Blue & White is headed by three former IDF chiefs, who together have over 100 years of active military service under their belt, including wars and daring counter-terrorism operations. All they lack is Netanyahu's marketing skills.
    Chief of Staff Benny GantzChief of Staff Benny Gantz
    Blue & White leader Benny Gantz during his days as IDF chief of staff
    (Photo: IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
    Although Netanyahu spent most of his adult life at cocktail parties in New York and Washington and the rest he spent solidifying his position as prime minister of Israel, he still boasts an impressive military record.
    Blue & White's generals should leave the question of Netanyahu's corruption to others. The clip of him insisting that he would not seek immunity will play throughout the campaign without their help.
    They should start pushing their security agenda.
    Senior Blue & White member Gabi Ashkenazi, who was already named a candidate to head the Defense Ministry should his party win the elections, would be wise - as shadow minister - to form a national security panel and enlist military, security, and intelligence experts. This panel should be preparing Blue & White's policies to be presented as an alternative to Netanyahu's position, with Iran first on the agenda.
    As former commander of the renowned Golani Brigade, Ashkenazi can appeal to the right-wing voter who prefers not to support a corrupt prime minister and perhaps is seeking another candidate.
    General Gabi AshkenaziGeneral Gabi Ashkenazi
    General Gabi Ashkenazi
    (Photo: Shalom Bar Tal)
    Blue & White leader Benny Gantz and his fellow party leader, Moshe "Bogie" Ya'alon, both former IDF chiefs of staff, should be featured in uniform on social media, showcasing their grand military pasts.
    The left-wing of their party may not approve of this and some may even choose to divert their vote to the Labor party, but no real harm would be done if that happened since the vote would remain inside the center-left parliamentary bloc.
    If James Carville were to advise Blue & White on their upcoming campaign, he would be screaming and shouting, "Are you mad? With three former IDF chiefs, you are letting Netanyahu set the agenda on security?" And he would be right.
    First published: 20:21 , 01.13.20
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