“If there’s no Meretz, he has 61,” was written in huge letters on a billboard on the Ayalon Highway in Tel Aviv. “He” is of course Benjamin Netanyahu, whose picture appears alongside Itamar Ben-Gvir and Yaakov Litzman.
“It’s Benny in the Knesset of Bibi forever,” was written on another threatening sign on the other side of the road. Half of Benny Gantz’s face appeared in the appropriate blue and white colors, while the split picture of Netanyahu, composed with monstrous red filter, peers out from the other side.
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Two parties, closer than ever to the electoral threshold and in some polls are even below it, made use of the shared demon – Netanyahu – for the purpose of emotional extortion with threats against voters. In a moment of despair, the messages became too similar – instead of displaying an ideological alternative, values, ambition or leadership – the easy solution in the campaigns of Meretz and Kahol Lavan are sowing fear.
But what is behind this message? If they don’t pass the electoral threshold, the votes of those voting for the two parties will wind up in the trash. The person who will benefit from this situation is Netanyahu, who is close to achieving a coalition of 61 Knesset seats.
Instead of quitting and calling for their diminishing supporters to vote for Yesh Atid, the Joint List or Labor, Gantz and Nitzan Horowitz are threatening to go down with the ship along with their voters. Unlike the brave act taken by Ofer Shelah, Moshe Ya’alon and Ron Huldai, Meretz and Kahol Lavan are stubbornly remaining in the race and applying psychological pressure on the voters, sometimes to the point of embarrassment. Look at the bizarre performance broadcast on television this week, in which his wife and the woman suspected of being his lover are trying to raise the sex appeal of the failing candidate.
Gantz sacrificed his political life when he joined the Netanyahu government and enabled the criminal defendant to form a government. When he was called on by former senior officers in the IDF to quit the race and not run for Knesset again, he refused crudely and called the ad they paid for “sticking a knife in his back.”
Meretz has much greater credit in Israeli politics. The party’s leaders express themselves clearly against the occupation and in favor of the rule of law and the rights of the individual. But for the last two decades the party has not represented an alternative. The claim that its MKs are excellent parliamentarians has not withstood the test of reality. The fact is that it is actually the MKs from other parties in the opposition who have managed to move things.
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Horowitz, who was the guest a few weeks ago on the Haaretz podcast, boasted that the party would enter the Knesset and said it would not need a “gevalt” campaign. He missed out on the opportunity to join up with Merav Michaeli’s Labor Party, was too late to adopt the idea of a Jewish-Arab party and never managed to attract new voters. It seems the party is close to the end of its historic role, or at the very least needs to be kicked out of the Knesset to reinvent itself.
If Gantz and Horowitz really want a change, they must announce they are giving up the race. Yaron Zelekha too. This is how they can guarantee that their voters do not indirectly strengthen the Netanyahu bloc, but instead are divided up between other parties that oppose the continuation of his rule. It is doubtful whether Gantz and Horowitz have the courage and leadership necessary to take such an action; Zelekha remains in the race for reasons of pure hubris. Another possible solution is a promise from Michaeli or Lapid that they will appoint Horowitz a minister if they form a coalition government, in return for Meretz quitting the race.
In any case, if Gantz and Horowitz insist on running until the very end, the public must not listen to fake cries, but consider carefully which party to vote for instead. It’s frustrating, even painful, but the alternative is much worse. The fewer votes that go to waste, the better the chance of bringing down Netanyahu.