Analysis

How Gantz May End Up Erasing the Israeli Left

The left's indecision in choosing Kahol Lavan or Meretz could cause the right to expand its power

Kahol Lavan and Meretz campaign banners in Jerusalem, April 2019.
Emil Salman

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Loathing for Benjamin Netanyahu is driving leftists out of their mind. Not that the prime minister didn’t come by it honestly, but if you filter out the strong feelings, the racing pulse and the deep-seated hatred toward this man, whose hands have sown evil and reaped poison, if you examine the situation soberly, a strange picture emerges.

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The leftist’s dilemma in this election is between Meretz and Kahol Lavan. Labor, which ran an excellent campaign and is fielding an impressive ticket, is there in the middle as a convenient parking place for people who don't feel like agonizing.

The leftist’s dilemma is pretty strange this time around: People who oppose the occupation, anti-Arab racism and the criminalization of left-wing organizations with all their hearts are debating between Meretz, which ought to be their political home – and ultimately their strategic choice as well, since if Meretz doesn’t make it into the Knesset, the pipe dreams of a revolution will evaporate with it – and a party whose members include drafters of the nation-state law (like Zvi Hauser), supporters of the law to legalize illegal settlement outposts (like Yoaz Hendel), people who attack human rights organizations (like Yair Lapid) and more.

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Meretz’s unpopularity is due partly to its voters’ disappointment with its elected leadership, but it’s impossible to lay all the blame on party Chairwoman Tamar Zandberg or its Knesset slate. “Strategic voting” is what left-wing supporters of Kahol Lavan call a move that can’t be viewed as anything but self-destruction – eliminating the left in the Knesset for the sake of a fairly slim chance that, if three or four things all happen at once, Netanyahu could finally be replaced.

This dilemma, and the left-wing votes flowing to Kahol Lavan, is another sign that the Israeli left is being erased by the right’s expansion.  The right-wing voter has an endless spectrum of choices – the New Right, the old right, the Kahanist right or the just plain racist right. Now, it turns out, there’s also a right for leftists. Instead of Kahol Lavan, in its clumsy, shapeless costume, moving votes from the right to the imaginary center, it’s sucking up Meretz voters. Quite the achievement!

The Netanyahu question, which for years has held Israelis’ sanity by the throat, is once again warping people’s logic. There are people who, even if Netanyahu were running against a mute, skeletal horse, would put their money on the poor horse and expect it to save them from this problem that has been refusing to go away for 20 years now.

Benny Gantz and the other leaders of Kahol Lavan aren’t starved horses; they are decent people, perhaps even very worthy. But the “anyone but Bibi” ideology promoted by their confused campaign doesn’t hold water. And it won’t even if they manage to pull off a surprise success at the polls.

The demonic figure of Netanyahu, with his family, his lifestyle, his lies and his divisiveness, conceals the major figures behind him – Gideon Sa’ar, who’s married to the charming Geula Even; Yariv Levin, who’s a fan of the Hapoel Tel Aviv soccer team. And now, there are new members as well – Itamar Ben-Gvir and Moshe Feiglin, who have even managed to overshadow the atrocities of Bezalel Smotrich. In the next Knesset, Smotrich will discover that he’s actually a moderate, statesmanlike figure by comparison.

And what will we be facing them with? A strategic vote for Miki Haimovich and Moshe Matalon?