Benny Gantz certainly put on a good show on Tuesday night. He looks good, he knows how to make a good impression, and his advisers seem to be acting on the assumption that this is all that matters in the modern era of big screens, small screens, viral videos and showmanship. That's how we ended up with a well-honed, genetically engineered speech. It really was the Dolly the sheep of addresses: it ticked all the boxes, was well-rehearsed and threw out one cliché after another. But underneath it all, what was actually there?
There was, in particular, a very conspicuous attempt not to fall into the trap laid by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the rest of the Likud members, who are chanting the mantra that "Ganz is left-wing." They accuse him of being on the left? He will prove otherwise: he will color his campaign khaki; he will release videos with militaristic overtones; he will extol his death toll; he will threaten Iran's Rouhani, Hezbollah's Nasrallah and Hamas' Sinwar.
Gantz's people made sure he was photographed gazing into the middle distance, where one can find Yair Lapid's voters, the sinking ship that is the Labor party, and the soft right. This is where he is apparently hoping to pick up four or five Knesset seats, if only he can prove that he is not left-wing. But what did he say? The real question is, what didn't he say – for there was hardly any subject left untouched and or without a commitment to speedily resolve it, even if it went against all logic. How can we "deepen our partnership with the ultra-Orthodox," and at the same time "advance civil unions and the Western Wall egalitarian prayer section?" One cannot resolve these two contradictions, but there they both were in the same speech.
So what was missing? Well, there were no Mizrahi (Eastern) Jews and no women. With a couple of exceptions, Gantz's list of Ashkenazi men is being formulated as if this were not the year 2019. It is very nice to declare in a speech that "we will fight against the exclusion of women " and vow to "smash all the glass ceilings that prevent women from having true equality," but who will believe him when the list he himself put together has no women, and is far from smashing any glass ceilings? Again, his statements and his actions are operating in isolation from one another.
Not everything was bad, heaven forbid. His consultants knew exactly how to inject Gantz's speech with witty, pointed and cutting soundbites that were music to the ears of his potential voters. He should also be commended for having silenced the angry voices in the audience in a confident and authoritative manner. When he stepped down from the stage for a moment and went to shake the hand of an audience member, it was a wonderfully scripted move that really presented him in a positive light.
Gantz steps well into the character of the savior-candidate. His confident step and sometimes embarrassed demeanor lend him the charm and grace of someone who is not a politician. This works well for a retired chief of staff who wants to take a few more seats in the polls, as was seen this week, but it is not enough for a prime minister. Gantz has not done enough to convince voters that his positions differ from those of countless existing parties. There is nothing new under the sun, and he will not be able to prepare as carefully for his next speeches as he prepared for this one. More critically, the privilege of not answering questions from journalists or the audience will not last forever. He is running out of chances.