To return to power, Left must avoid repeating past mistakes
Op-ed: The real national camp—which is pursuing a Jewish, democratic and an incorrupt state—has an actual chance of creating a political upheaval. But if Likud voters who are fed up with Netanyahu have to choose between a corrupt prime minister and a camp which supports Breaking the Silence, they will favor Netanyahu.
The real national camp—and no, I’m not referring to Likud but to the camp pursuing a Jewish, democratic and incorrupt state—has an actual chance of returning to power.
About one-third of Likud voters are presumably fed up with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's way. It’s true that he’s made achievements. It’s true that the attacks on him were often vile, exaggerated hypocritical and filled with lies, mistakes and manipulations. But no more. What could have been argued two or three or five years ago, quite rightfully, can no longer be argued today. Something has changed.
This time, it’s Netanyahu and the group of corrupt people acting on his behalf. This time, the public corruption—and perhaps even criminal corruption—is outrageous. This time, we can no longer say: Well, everyone was like that, and the important thing is that he’s delivering the goods. Not everyone was like that, and those who were went to jail.
Netanyahu's efforts on the key issue in the past decade—the Iranian threat—ended in a miserable failure. Iran is growing stronger. The Hezbollah threat is becoming a combined Iran-Hezbollah threat. And with all due respect to the occasional strikes, they haven't prevented the creation of the corridor leading from Tehran to the shores of the Mediterranean Sea and Hezbollah’s massive armament. The Iranian failure isn’t the only thing, but it clarifies the extent of the failure. Because Netanyahu’s corrupt conduct is breaking records.
It’s unclear whether this corruption will lead to a criminal investigation, but even without a criminal aspect, Israel has never experienced this kind of public corruption before. There is a concern, just a concern, that this corruption harmed national interests. It likely also influenced strategic decision making. It’s the kind of corruption which the presidents of Kenya and Rwanda probably couldn’t care less about, but it certainly harms Israel’s interest in a place like Germany, which may decide not to approve the submarine deal.
This corruption, which includes amazing cynicism, led Netanyahu to severely harm Israel’s relations with US Jewry. It was unnecessary. His coalition wouldn’t have fallen apart had he refused to give in to the ultra-Orthodox parties on the Western Wall and conversion issues. But Netanyahu chose to surrender because he sees himself as more important than the national interests. So now that he is leading a Byzantine and anti-national courtyard, he shouldn’t talk on behalf of the national camp.
There is, however, quite a big chance that Netanyahu will remain in power. Not because he is wonderful, but because the real national camp—which includes one-third of Likud voters—will fail to implement the historic potential. We’ve been there already. The real national camp failed because at some stage, a Garbuz jumps up and pushes the Likud voters back to their mother party. It’s not Garbuz the man; it’s the Garbuz syndrome. It’s the scorn manifested by parts of the Left towards right-wing voters. It’s the contempt, the arrogance, the unwillingness to understand that these are the most important people in the chance for a political upheaval.
Moreover, a real national camp can be dovish and support two states or a separation. That’s not something that will bother the five to ten Knesset seats that create the chance for a change. What might bother them is the connection between parts of the Left, even the Zionist parts, and anti-Israel bodies. Because if they have to choose between a corrupt Netanyahu and a camp that supports Breaking the Silence, they will favor the former. Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid understands that already. And if the real national bloc fails to understand that, it will not only hurt itself but Lapid as well.
Saturday evening’s protest was definitely a milestone. The question is whether the camp that could be formed in these protests would be sympathetic towards the Joint Arab List, towards Knesset Member Mossi Raz (Meretz), who thinks the “distorted” Balfour Declaration should be amended, and towards Breaking the Silence, which has become part of the demonization campaign, or rather towards the moderate Right, which has been fed up with Netanyahu in recent months.
There is no chance that Netanyahu will repent, but there is a real chance that the camp which has had enough of corruption—and mainly the leftist-centrist camp—will repeat its past mistakes. It should be careful.