The union between the Labor Party, led by Isaac Herzog, and Hatnua Chairwoman Tzipi Livni is creating a new situation. It's not that they have suddenly become popular. It's not that the election polls are now giving the victory to the centrist-leftist bloc. But on Wednesday night, perhaps for the first time in his career, Herzog presented the face of a leader.
Because Herzog, who has been considered an uncharismatic and unattractive leader, made a first-class leadership move: He is giving up his monopoly as chairman. He has agreed to a rotation system in the role of prime minister.
This isn't an easy move. He could have skipped this concession. But he demonstrated leadership.
The new union is at a crossroads. It can step to the left and it can go to the center.
Look at what happened to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: He became the most popular leader in Israel precisely because he turned to the center. In the past few years, he has represented a much saner line than his party. He moved forward with US Secretary of State John Kerry's draft more than he will admit. He showed surprising restrained vis-à-vis Hamas and tried to prevent the conflict. Here and there, he even restrained the settlement construction, and his bureau claimed that in any event construction was only approved in the big settlement blocs.
But Netanyahu is shifting to the right. And the more he shifts to the right, the more his position is undermined, because one-third of the Likud voters are far from the radical group taking over the party. The shift to the right drives them away.
Herzog and Livni are facing a similar, almost identical danger. The hesitant voters are asking themselves what is the difference between them and Meretz. There is a difference. Of course there is. But it's now their job to present a clear alternative.
There is no need to present the differences between them and Netanyahu. There is a need to present the differences between them and part of the left-wing camp, which is becoming less Zionist. Livni made certain to present a national, Zionist line in Wednesday's press conference. But they will need much more than that in order to emphasize the differences.
The past few weeks' polls give the victory to the right-wing bloc, because both Moshe Kahlon with the Kulanu party and Avigdor Lieberman with Yisrael Beiteinu are registered as part of the right. That is not entirely clear. These two are changing direction. The Herzog-Livni union may spur additional unions. Maybe between Yair Lapid and Kahlon. Even a moderated Lieberman, as long as he holds on to his moderate position, may find himself in a new coalition, a factional or governmental one. So the political map is changing in front of our eyes.
Herzog's statement Wednesday against the "me, me, me" culture is definitely refreshing. Why we have gotten used to the fact that in politics, ego is more important than anything. With Netanyahu - and it's a shame - political interest usually defeats national interest.
If there are any politicians on the political map who present a slightly less egotistical and more national alternative, that's not what will change the picture from one extreme to the other, but it can shift something.
And sometimes, that's all it takes.