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Hatred of Netanyahu Has Driven You Mad. Just Look at How Well the Right-wing Is Polling

Eitan Cabel
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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a statement to his Likud party MKs (members of Knesset), at the Likud center in the Knesset in Jerusalem on December 2, 2020.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a statement to his Likud party MKs (members of Knesset), at the Likud center in the Knesset in Jerusalem on December 2, 2020.Credit: YONATHAN SINDEL - AFP
Eitan Cabel

Fall is here. Winter is approaching. The evenings are cooler and we are wearing sweaters. The strong winds of an approaching election are in the air and the center-left is being stupid.

It’s hard to teach me about opinion polls and trends and building momentum. The picture of reality as it has been portrayed over the past several weeks is (very) far from the reality that we will witness the day after the election.

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A month ago, it was Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai. Two weeks ago, it was Telem leader Moshe Ya’alon and last week it was Gideon Sa’ar, formerly of Likud. The election ice-cream truck hasn’t even taken to the road yet and we already have a new, refreshing flavor of the month.

“Opinion polls, like perfume, are to be smelled, not drunk,” the late Shimon Peres correctly said. I was close to Peres when he was taking thoroughly intoxicating whiffs of the polls. In thoroughly private conversations, he also gulped them down.

Granted, everything will change. Sa’ar may slump. Support for Yamina leader Naftali Bennett will erode, Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid will survive and other developments can be expected too. But it looks like one thing remains unchanged since the current, regrettable unity government was formed: center-left voters are marching in a straight line towards the cliff, one by one happily bounding towards the abyss.

The current polls give the right-wing parties about 80 seats. That’s right. Eighty. Seats. For the right wing.

The left, which has long become a derogatory term, a boutique political grouping, has over the past two years, with Lapid’s help, become the center-left, and it too is shrinking. In the face of the right wing’s impressive 80-seat showing, the opposing camp is coming together as if on the sidelines, embarrassed and reduced in size, with 18 seats on a good day and realistically with 16.

After all, they aren’t teaming up with the Arabs even when they’ve been handed the opportunity. They are a shrunken, defeated camp even before the campaign gets underway.

Perhaps its Meretz’s petty politics or Yair Lapid’s choice of hair gel, or the disappearance of Labor Party leader Amir Peretz’s defiant moustache, but the camp is bereft of leaders, of messiahs. Hope is lost; bring on Gideon Sa’ar!

Nearly half a million floating voters say they care more that it be Anyone but Bibi than they care about any particular ideology; that from their standpoint, they would rather have Bennett in power than Netanyahu; that they would rather have Sa’ar.

They’re not jumping off a cliff. They’re jumping off Mount Everest.

After all, in comparison to Bennett, Bibi is a member of the Joint List’s left-wing Hadash faction, and compared to Sa’ar, he’s from its Balad faction. Unlike Netanyahu, Bennett and Sa’ar embrace a solidly right-wing ideology. Get ready for annexation, for an apartheid state, for an international boycott. Peace with Saudi Arabia? You make Bezalel Smotrich laugh.

And with the two of them, it won’t end with right-wing diplomacy. I suggest that these floating half-million voters prepare their flak jackets. The judicial system will be next. You can kiss goodbye an effective separation of powers, the power of the High Court of Justice and a system of checks and balances. Welcome to the new judicial system: conservative, religious, shackled, frightened and complacent.

You want more? With pleasure: sweeping religious influence in the education system, a crushing economic policy devoid of support for social welfare, collapsing Israeli agriculture, fading industry, a mercenary army, media in service of others and neutered culture.

One by one you march and the edge of the abyss is close. Hatred of Netanyahu has made you crazy, and you’re now expressing support for a new false messiah.

Cabel is a former cabinet minister and Labor MK.