Analysis

The Most Telling Part of Gantz and Lapid's Platform Is What It Doesn't Say

Kahol Lavan's platform consists of statements that sound good, but lack ideology and a concrete plan – which may be exactly what centrist voters want

Kahol Lavan's Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid announce their joint slate in Tel Aviv, February 21, 2019.
Tomer Appelbaum

Whether deliberate or not, the Kahol Lavan platform released Wednesday confirms the party as an eclectic collection of good people without a real direction. The platform is essentially a 45-page edited, shortened version of the Yesh Atid platform that was published last month in a 206-page volume.

Yet the differences between the two platforms are telling. Yesh Atid’s platform had an impressive chapter, written by MK Ofer Shelah, about the State of Israel’s security principles, which does not appear in Kahol Lavan’s manifesto. Instead of an orderly program outlining the relationship between the government and the defense establishment, one must presumably just rely on former Chief of General Staff Benny Gantz’s judgment.

>> Read more: Gantz's party releases platform; deepen separation from Palestinians, strengthen settlement blocsAfter replacing Netanyahu, Gantz's party will self-destruct. And that's OK | Analysis

But there were other suggestions that were omitted. The Kahlon bill, which is meant to prevent anyone who was convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude from returning to politics, and which Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid tried repeatedly to advance, is gone. The bill was a poke in Shas chairman Arye Dery’s eye, which is presumably why it was removed. Yesh Atid’s proposals to eliminate ministers without portfolio and to limit the cabinet to 19 ministers has also disappeared.

In the section that deals with religion and state, Yesh Atid’s proposal for new arrangements at the Western Wall plaza, including equalizing the prayer spaces for men and women, are gone. The term “secular burial” has been replaced by “alternative burial.”

The diplomatic portion of the joint platform is as ambiguous as the Dimona nuclear reactor. Although Kahol Lavan declares that it plans to take diplomatic steps, their exact nature remains unknown. It will join hands with moderate Arab states (to the degree that Saudi Arabia, which attacks its opponents with acid, is a moderate state) against Islamic extremism; it will also facilitate normal life in the settlements, but doesn’t elaborate on what’s considered normal life. It won’t conduct a withdrawal from the territories, it will initiate a regional conference, preserve East Jerusalem, and essentially will do anything Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would do.

The social affairs portion is full of wonderful proposals. After all, no one really objects to improving services to the disabled or putting social workers in the school system. On the major issue of housing, Kahol Lavan says, “We will increase the supply of apartments. The number of apartments being built does not fulfill the demand. Kahol Lavan will release the bureaucratic bottlenecks that are delaying the completion of existing projects.” That’s great on paper, but experience has shown that the planning and construction process in Israel is made up of so many components that even experienced, aggressive politicians like Moshe Kahlon have had a hard time making changes. Lapid, as finance minister, advanced a new planning and construction law which, despite the hopes attached to it, brought no relief.

From the platform it’s hard to learn anything about the joint party’s positions. It’s a collection of statements that sound good, but there’s no ideological thread or concrete plans with definite goals. But it’s very possible that this is what most centrist voters want – good people with good values, without fiery ideologies that get blunted by reality. For the sake of comparison, Likud long ago learned that party platforms are merely petri dishes on which negative newspaper articles grow, and preferred not to publish one.