Photo: EPA
Netanyahu and Trump of signing the recognition of Israel's sovereignty over the Golan Heights (Photo
Photo: EPA
Orly Azoulay

Netanyahu's rivals should have seen it coming

Analysis: The Blue and White party made the same mistake in 2019 as Hillary Clinton did in 2016, by refusing to get their hands dirty in the murky waters of politics while simultaneously failing to create a campaign of hope like Obama in 2008

The newly completed election campaign in Israel was so reminiscent of the recent presidential elections in the United States, and raises questions of what, if any lessons have been learned both by voters and by those aspiring to be elected.



Netanyahu invented Trumpism long before Donald Trump even made his entry on the political stage, and in 2019 he was fighting not only for his office, but for his very freedom. That made him a dangerous opponent.


Benjamin Netanyahu on the campaign trail in Tel Aviv (Photo: AP)
Benjamin Netanyahu on the campaign trail in Tel Aviv (Photo: AP)


His target was the so-called "French law" (named for a maneuver by former French president Jacques Chirac), which would stop the legal system from indicting Netanyahu while in office, and for which he was willing to annex the West Bank and bring about apartheid proper in Israel.


It seems, meanwhile, that this frantic bid to dodge legal consequences is not only the similarity between Netanyahu and Trump, for the Israeli leader's rivals failed to learn from errors made by the opponents of the US president. 


Even if members of the Blue and White Party are not spotless, they did at least create an opportunity for political change. But since they took center stage, they failed to understood that a bully must be confronted by another bully. This was no time to be on the defensive  - to win an election war you must be sleazy and willing to fight, to deliver blows and take them too.


Barack Obama in 2008 - a message of hope and change (Photo: AP)
Barack Obama in 2008 - a message of hope and change (Photo: AP)


To beat Netanyahu they had to do one of the two things. The first option was to turn his own tricks on him, use his own words to tear off his mask, not with a trembling hand but with one long hard pull.


The second option was to conduct an inspiring campaign like Barack Obama did in 2008, when he used a simple message of "Yes we can" to mobilize the masses.


True, Gantz lacks Obama's charisma, but he is better known to the public than the near-anonymous senator from Illinois who managed to make history to become the first black American president. Obama achieved this because he imbued the hearts of the people with the sense that hope and change were in reach.


Clinton and Trum,p in 2016 - an elegant campaign against a wild man (Photo: Reuters)
Clinton and Trum,p in 2016 - an elegant campaign against a wild man (Photo: Reuters)


In the final days of the campaign, it seemed that members of the Blue and White Party were more like Hillary Clinton, who decided to run an elegant campaign against a wild man who cursed her, gave her a derogatory name, and used his rallies to demand her imprisonment. She failed to realize that the era of elegant election campaigns was over, so she went on the defensive against the bully who just ran over her.


Blue and White, except for one successful brief attack on Netanyahu's involvement in the submarine affair, was mostly on the defensive as the Netanyahu camp trotted out claims that Iran hacked Benny Gantz's cell phone and were about to blackmail him, or that he was insane. Gantz, Lapid and co. refused to enter the arena, and like Hillary refused to dirty their hands in the murky waters of politics. However, nor did they succeed in doing what Obama did in building a campaign of hope and the sense that not only was it possible, but also necessary, to dream.


Historian Barbara Tuchman wrote that folly is a child of power. Netanyahu had too much of the parent as well as the offspring. If he had lost, and he should have done, it would have been because he defeated himself, and not because giants stood against him.


פרסום ראשון: 04.13.19, 00:20
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