Opinion

Anyone but Cowardly, Warmongering Kahol Lavan

Kahol Lavan lawmakers Gabi Ashkenazi, Benny Gantz, Yair Lapid, and Moshe Ya'alon near the Gaza border, August 2019.
Eliyahu Hershkovitz

Vote left, vote right, just don’t vote nothing. The nothing of Kahol Lavan isn’t merely nothing, it’s an actively destructive nothing. It suffocates any possibility of providing an alternative and eliminates any hope for change.

The leaders of this nothing threaten that the next round of warfare in the Gaza Strip will be “the last round” and avoid the most moderate of Israeli Arab leaders as if he were the plague. If that’s the alternative to the right-wing government, then we’re better off with the original.

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It’s true that they are nice and less corrupt, that they would undoubtedly introduce a few changes that would improve the atmosphere in Israel. But they’ve already proven beyond all doubt that whenever a position must be taken not on a populist issue like the need for more hospitals, but rather on a controversial topic such as war and peace, they will always choose a right-wing stance. The daylight between them and Likud when it comes to core issues can be measured in microns. Kahol Lavan will only rush more quickly to lead Israel into another pointless, criminal war.

The disgraceful response of the heads of Kahol Lavan to the statement of Joint List Chairman Ayman Odeh offered definitive proof of their cowardice or their right-wing credentials, and it’s not clear which is worse. It’s safe to assume that the heads of Kahol Lavan seemingly agree with most of Odeh’s theoretical conditions for joining the government; only their fear of being painted in a too-left light pushed them into a response that pushed them to the right of Kahanist party Otzma Yehudit. When Yair Lapid and Gabi Ashkenazi treat Odeh as if he were contagious, their incitement affects centrist voters, not the “hilltop youth” hard-core activist settlers.

The hollow talk of “the last round” and “the restoration of deterrence” has also proven that the nothing of Kahol Lavan is right and more right. Their next round in Gaza won’t be the last or even the antepenultimate round, because exactly like Likud, all they are offering is force and more force, with a few bones tossed in to assuage the hunger. The rounds of warfare will continue into infinity. The leaders of Kahol Lavan know what is the only solution for the Gaza Strip, but it's something which they don’t have the courage to propose. A few of them killed more than a few people, they have Palestinian blood on their hands; they know where all of that has led in the past, and where it will always lead in the future.

They also know just how hollow the talk of deterrence is, when desperation is the main driving force. When a young Palestinian man places a bomb at a spring that was robbed from his village, he knows that he is ruining his own life and that of his family — and he is not deterred. And there is nothing that could deter him, apart from hope for a different reality. Pronouncements about deterrence are for cowards and populists, like those of Kahol Lavan. Courageous people would speak about a genuine solution, about lifting the siege on Gaza and ending the occupation of the West Bank. Save for these, there are no solutions. But that’s a few sizes too big for Kahol Lavan.

Kahol Lavan offers a government of generals. Having spent the majority of their lives in barracks, they know only one language, the language of force, and only two kinds of Arabs, the terrorist and the collaborator. They also know very little about life in Israel. They were too busy with wars and policing. Not one of the three leading generals in Kahol Lavan has broadened his view of the world beyond that. Their clumsy way of speaking only underlines this. The addition of Yair Lapid, the civilian, only detracts from the party: He is the most populist politician in Israel today. “Deterrence you build through force, through a lot of force and through disproportionate force,” the off-brand macho boasted on Friday, sizing up the chances for achieving change in Israel at zero. If the choice is Netanyahu or Ahmad Tibi, then it's Tibi, without hesitation. Bibi or Benny Gantz of Kahol Lavan? Bibi, with hesitation.