“I’m already awaiting Reuven Adler’s results,” “Now that Adler’s come, everything will be fine,” “The campaign is taking off because it’s Adler now.” Those comments and others like it have been widespread among leftist voters in recent days, ever since Zionist Union landed the PR man who became a god thanks to his membership in former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s inner circle and his shares in the Kadima party (which today are worth about as much as the bonds of a bankrupt tycoon).
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In the weekend papers, Adler received more mentions than anything but the prime minister and the snow. One could have been misled into thinking that the electoral race was actually between Benjamin Netanyahu and Adler.
The messianic hopes pinned on Adler, with encouragement from both his megaphones in the media and center-left voters, whose desire to bring down Netanyahu’s government is causing them to cling to every thread, are rather ludicrous, as is everything that’s been happening in this campaign. Adler – despite his friendship with Sharon, his membership in Sharon’s sacred Sycamore Ranch forum and his participation in concocting the disengagement from Gaza (whose real goals were revealed in 2004 by another Sharon aide, Dov Weisglass, in an interview with Ari Shavit for Haaretz Magazine: “The significance of the disengagement plan is the freezing of the peace process”) – is ultimately just a PR agent with sharp intuitions. He’s smart, charismatic and certainly very rich and well connected, but he isn’t a substitute for an idea, a path, an orderly doctrine.
That, for some reason, is something almost none of the parties, aside from Meretz and Habayit Hayehudi, have grasped. And that includes Zionist Union.
Adler’s most significant contribution to Zionist Union to date hasn’t involved producing any revolutionary ideas or creative brilliance, although the party’s posters were changed immediately after he arrived, and a new slogan, astounding in its innovativeness, was produced: “We need responsible leadership.” His main contribution at the moment has been to impose order on Zionist Union’s divided, factious, quarrelsome and inefficient campaign headquarters, which is upholding the autoimmune tradition of the Labor Party.
Everyone there says that finally, there’s a “responsible adult” in the field, meaning an authority figure whose decisions are accepted by all four of the campaign’s main factions (Shimon Battat-the Peer-Levin public relations company, Eitan Cabel- Eldad Yaniv, Tzipi Livni and her people, and Shelly Yacimovich, who’s a faction all by herself). And where is Zionist Union’s leader, Isaac Herzog, in this story? Why is a patriarch with combat experience in Sharon’s junta needed to impose order on the campaign? These are fairly disturbing questions. Raviv Drucker wrote in Haaretz that it’s not clear Herzog is capable of being prime minister. But another, no less important, question is whether he even wants to do so.
Likud’s campaign is admittedly being run like a North Korean dictatorship but there, at least, everyone is on the same page. There are almost no leaks – though that may not be saying much, given that most Likud Knesset members don’t know anything and are sent to do interviews like jack-in-the-boxes – and there’s relatively little internal bad-mouthing, despite widespread loathing for Netanyahu. Because Netanyahu offers leadership, even if his goal is ultimately to serve only himself.
So this is the situation three weeks before the election: The party that’s supposed to lead the center-left bloc needs a disciplinarian “father” in order to get to its feet and reach the finish line in one piece. The result of this deal is liable to be a sizable number of Knesset seats, but also the collapse of Meretz, a unity government with Likud or another pointless term in opposition. Yet even if a different, better outcome results, it’s hard to avoid one question: If it’s impossible to do it without Adler, why shouldn’t he become prime minister himself?