The dramatic headline of this election: Israel is not right wing
Netanyahu and Lapid complement each other, if the two of them can get the better of themselves, conquer their evil inclinations and build mutual trust, they could be a pretty good leadership team.
The election results are first and foremost personal results: One candidate (Benjamin Netanyahu) failed humiliatingly, and another candidate (Yair Lapid) triumphed magnificently. Now the two of them will have to work together and form a government. Likud-Beiteinu succeeded in defeating itself via Yesh Atid, and turned its unchallenged rule into history.
Drunk with power, the settlers and nationalists made the public sick of them and allowed an inexperienced television star to move four or five critical Knesset seats from the right-wing bloc to the center bloc. That is how, in a way no one predicted, a sort of equality was created between the blocs and the short reign of King Bibi was put to an end. Netanyahu, it seems, will win a third term as prime minister, but he will not rule the country. His life will not be easy, not politically and not in terms of policy.
The results of the election are also structural results: They return Israel to the center. A decade ago Ariel Sharon realized that the political gold mine was in the center of the political map, and as a result moved the Likud to the center in 2003 and founded Kadima in 2005 − and became the king of Israel.
Netanyahu also understood that the jackpot is located in the center, but refused to act on this knowledge. In 2010 he made no significant moves in the peace process, in 2011 he did not wholeheartedly adopt the social protest, and in 2012 he missed a golden opportunity for a unity government with Shaul Mofaz. Instead of taking the risks involved in moving into the light, Netanyahu preferred to remain in the darkness with the Haredim and settlers, who rewarded him by taking advantage of him and stealing his party.
So now, the man who didn’t move to the center out of choice and strength is being dragged into the center against his will. But he will learn his lesson. Even Netanyahu and his successors in the Likud leadership will remember very well that the extreme right brought them down in 1992, toppled them in 1999 and cut them down in 2013.
This week the idiotic march of the right to the right wing of the right came to an end, and the renewed march of the right toward the center began.
But above all, the election results have significance for our identity. The dramatic headline of the election is short: Israel is not right-wing. This week proved that as opposed to the impression both here in Israel and in the world, Israel is not messianic and not racist and not anti-democratic. We are not all Moshe Feiglin.
As opposed to the common feeling recently, not everything is black in Israel and not everything is lost. There is hope. True, the quiet revolt that took place two days ago at the polls was a slightly crazy revolt. That is not how the new center needed to present itself to its voters, and that is not exactly how Lapid’s Knesset list should have looked. The election campaign and voting patterns also reflected the stupidity and superficiality of the age of reality programming. Nonetheless, the revolt is a promising one, of the sane Israel against the insane one. The revolt is impressive, of the enlightened Israel against the dark Israel.
It turns out now that the new Israelis of 2013 are the new General Zionists. Let us live, they say. Let us live here in this country.
Now the ball is in Netanyahu and Lapid’s court. In a certain way, these two complement each other: Netanyahu has historical understanding and Lapid has common sense; Netanyahu has experience and Lapid has a positive approach to life; Netanyahu has diplomatic and economic abilities and Lapid has emotional and human abilities. If the two of them can get the better of themselves, conquer their evil inclinations and build mutual trust, they could be a pretty good leadership team.
The cautious and surprising hope that Israeli citizens planted on Tuesday in the blue ballot boxes is hope that must not be ignored. Netanyahu’s last chance is Lapid’s first opportunity, and our great hope.