A Herzog-Livni Upset? Only in Your Dreams

The Israeli public does not want a moderate, democratic government; it is not yet ripe for a complete end to settlement construction or border adjustments.

Tal Niv
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Herzog (L) and Livni (R) at a joint press conference, December 10, 2014.Credit: Moti Milrod
Tal Niv

The dust had barely settled on Tzipi Livni’s embarrassing appearance on the satirical show “Matzav Ha’uma” (“State of the Union”), in which she said that she and Isaac Herzog, like all stable couples, decided to “take down the garbage together” — a broad reference to her former partner, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — before Herzog shouted “Mahapakh!” — an election upset — over and over at Sunday’s Labor Party convention.

His tailors, like those of the proverbial king, apparently convinced him that the Labor-Hatnuah unity deal was a political coup. Perhaps he came to that conclusion himself; after all, there is no shortage of meaningless metaphors. And his partner? To top off her performance, which ranged from vulgarity to bad acting and “rude speech,” she uttered a colorful obscenity.

That’s a pity. If there’s one thing nobody argues, it’s that Livni excels at demonstrating leadership and charisma in campaign season. It’s nothing to sniff at, the proof is that she’s still here. She’s even coined the important term “extreme right,” in order to differentiate the center from the rest, in an effort to turn the tables.

Her appearance on “Matzav Ha’uma” is only a symptom of a common ill, a postmodernist malignancy — the lack of distinction between highbrow and lowbrow. My role in the Netanyahu government, she explained, was to conduct negotiations for my benefit — just as I did with Herzog, and that’s why you should vote for me. I’m good at bending others to my well. Livni presents her drawback as an advantage, and says nothing about her softening over the years but only about her snarky strength. The world has moved rightward, she says, while she is the sun around which the planets orbit. It’s post-political.

Still, we must warn that despite the sniping against left-wing purists who don’t want ideologically mixed parties, it’s not the leftists that are the problem but rather the delusions of all those who believe the toxins seeping into the soil ground like the oil spill in the Arava and that turned Israel into a Jewish-nationalist-religious state, will disappear with the wave of an election. That they will be stopped and blocked before themselves changing.

It’s true that without a leader, without Benjamin Netanyahu himself, the acidity, sourness and overt aggression will disappear, as will the need to appease Naftali Bennett, Yariv Levin, Orit Strock and Ayelet Shaked. It’s also possible that without the “commander’s spirit,” the collapse will slow. But because it is mathematically impossible to form a coalition from the left and the center alone, it all comes back to the same thing: Any party that is not Likud or Habayit Hayehudi and that is not in the extreme right can be part of the coalition. Even so, Bennett — who has just brought into his home a Trojan horse with Ronen Shoval of the West Bank settlement Ofra inside — is not going anywhere, just like the Bennettism he represents.

All the pipe dreams and rosy cheeks awaiting victory are not accounting for Meretz, which will try to take votes from the center; nor are they accounting for the reality that even in those in the center tend toward the right; nor for the Moshe Kahlon gang that’s being built using the personal-recommendation method, but in a nice, fun, free sort of way. Stop fantasizing about a political upset. It’s not going to happen.

Because while no one doubts that what Israel needs is a moderate, democratic leadership, the public does not want such a government; it is not yet ripe for a complete end to settlement construction or border adjustments. The people have been brainwashed with religion and song. To win, Livni’s postmodernism must eliminate the left-right divisions by fashioning a new definition of “extreme” and positioning itself in the center. There is a problem with postmodernism, however. It has no center.

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