Ben-Dror Yemini
Ben-Dror Yemini
Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai announcing his new party

Israel needs a proper political center

Opinion: We don't need any more catchy slogans, we need a real Jewish, democratic alternative to the right wing that is leading us down a dangerous path, and those jockeying to lead such a bloc have less than three months to do so

Ben-Dror Yemini |
Published: 12.30.20 , 23:30
Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai successfully passed his baptism of fire into Israeli national politics on Tuesday when he announced his new party, named The Israelis, alongside with his new partner Avi Nissenkorn - who quit both his former party Blue & White and his position as justice minister. It is yet to be determined whether the former justice minister will be an asset or an embuggerance.
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  • Earlier that same evening, Defense Minister Benny Gantz announced his continued leadership of Blue & White in what was an honest but also very sad press conference. His party cannot be saved.
    רון חולדאירון חולדאי
    Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai announcing his new party
    (Photo: Point2Point)
    With less than three months to the March 23 elections, Israel's political center - including the center-right and the center-left - have yet to formulate a real alternative to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
    The right-wing has three strong parties in the running: Netanyahu's Likud, Gideon Sa'ar's New Hope and Naftali Bennett's Yamina. Also in the mix are the satellite ultra-Orthodox parties of Shas and United Torah Judaism.
    But the center and center-left remain beaten down and divided.
    Israel's political center always overflowed with parties. They are always for the rule of law and against corruption, for strengthening the democracy that they say is always in danger. They always present a new hope for the public and for unity, and are always pro-free market while keeping social services strong.
    But do they have a plan to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or reworking the status quo with the Haredi when it comes to religion and state or military service? No.
    On Tuesday we watched the man who stands at the head of the biggest party and biggest Knesset bloc sink as a replacement ran on to take his spot center stage.
    בני גנץבני גנץ
    Blue & White leader Benny Gantz
    (Photo: Elad Malka)
    It is actually unclear how Huldai's ideology differs from that of Gantz or even the left-wing Meretz party.
    No matter how hard you try, you will find no nuance, certainly none that justifies a split within the camp that might jeopardize its continued existence.
    The problem with the political center is that no one has been able to fill the shoes of slain prime minister Yitzhak Rabin.
    This mad dash to find a political home between Likud and Meretz is the best thing to ever happen to the right-wing, which the polls show is only growing stronger.
    In about 80 days, Israel could become the first nation in the world to declare victory in its battle against the coronavirus pandemic.
    Netanyahu is more than capable of translating this into votes and the anti-Netanyahu camp's celebrations are premature.
    בנימין נתניהובנימין נתניהו
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
    (Photo: Alex Kolomoisky)
    The thing the political center also lacks is bravery. Every one of its leaders will say there is a problem with Israel's justice system behind closed doors, but in the open, they all trot out the same mantra of "ensuring the stability of the rule of law" and "helping democracy."
    They know that no one on the Palestinian side is waiting for Israel to return to the negotiating table, but again, none of them has the guts to say it out loud.
    They know that there needs to be a thorough and in-depth proposal for anything to change on that front, but they are too cowardly to take the risk.
    The political center does not need any more slogans. It needs to present Israel with a true Jewish democratic alternative to what the right-wing is pushing, namely kowtowing to the ultra-Orthodox and leading the country down the path to a binational state.
    They have less than three months to do it. Let's hope they can pull it off.
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