Gantz and Lapid Proved It Was Possible

The leaders of Hosen L’Yisrael and Yesh Atid have shown political maturity in setting aside their egos to run together

Newly allied Israeli centrist politicians, Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid, react as they deliver a joint statement in Tel Aviv, on February 21, 2019.

Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid have done an admirable thing. The respective leaders of Hosen L’Yisrael and Yesh Atid have shown political maturity in setting aside their egos and opting to run together for the premiership.

The national responsibility they have accepted, along with the important addition of former chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi, means that, for the first time in a decade, an Israeli election offers an opposition team with a real chance of winning.

The best evidence of the alliance’s effectiveness – apart from the polls that indicated on Thursday that the new party has surged ahead of Netanyahu – is the panic with which it was received by the right. Benjamin Netanyahu, as expected, didn’t deviate from his standard formula – a mixture of intimidation and incitement. He said in his hysterical speech on Thursday that Gantz and Lapid “are relying on a blocking majority [with the help] of Arab parties acting to destroy Israel.”

It is regrettable that the Labor and Meretz parties haven’t succeeded in displaying a similar extent of responsibility. Meretz chairwoman Tamar Zandberg blamed Labor leader Avi Gabbay for the failure. “We did everything we could to unite and create a significant force in the left opposite the joinder of the Likud and the Kahanists. Gabbay refused,” she said. Gabbay’s excuse was attributing his refusal to public opinion polls. It is to be hoped that this wretched decision doesn’t bring an end to one of the left-wing parties.

Indeed, the polls have shown some recovery in support for Labor since its primary, but public backing for both Labor and Meretz has reached a low point in recent weeks, including polls conducted on Thursday evening.

The hope of a political upheaval is expected to draw numerous leftist voters to support Gantz and Lapid’s new party, Kahol Lavan, which could lead either Labor or Meretz to fail to make it into the Knesset. This could cost the leftist bloc numerous Knesset seats.

The mission facing Gantz, Lapid, Ashkenazi and Moshe Ya’alon, the new slate’s number three, must now focus on drawing votes from the right-wing bloc, rather than expanding at the expense of Labor and Meretz.

Netanyahu is proving every day that there is no red line he won’t cross in the struggle for his political survival. One should hope the new alternative finally puts an end to the political recklessness of the suspect from Balfour Street.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.