During the past few months Gideon Sa’ar has turned into the darling of Haaretz. Several of its major columnists identified with the left have expressed support for him. Thus, for example, Rogel Alpher announced that he would hold his nose and vote for him, and after the election he thanked Sa’ar for taking 2.5 Knesset seats from Likud. Ravit Hecht called him a “brave man,” Yossi Verter consistently treated him favorably, Itay Rom called on him to “choose correctly,” and Shani Littman even expressed fear for his welfare, lest he be blamed for the inability of the right to form a government (a justified allegation).
All these caresses are deceiving. Does anyone doubt the fact that each of these writers opposes Sa’ar’s right-wing views? Hecht even reported Sa’ar’s political record honestly – the infiltration law, voiding the law that would have allowed Tel Aviv supermarkets to open on Shabbat, and more – saying these things made him ideologically intolerable. So the prevailing wisdom is that the support for Sa’ar stems from his opposition to Benjamin Netanyahu.
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But Sa’ar is not the only right-wing politician who opposes Netanyahu. His particular advantage in the eyes of these writers is the fact that he hasn’t yet decided which of his commitments to violate, if any. That being the case, the admiration Sa’ar is getting from the left constitutes a signal as to which would be the “correct” promise to break. Which is why all this fondness includes a threat: If he doesn’t act as they propose, he will lose their support.
Sa’ar is now caught in an uncomfortable position. He had sworn to keep two promises: Not to sit in a government headed by Netanyahu, and not to enter a government relying on support from the Arab parties. If he remains true to both, Israel will be headed for a fifth election, in which he may not pass the electoral threshold. If he violates the first promise he will be embraced by the right, but will become a punching bag for those left-wingers now praising him. If he wants to know what to expect, he can simply phone party colleague Yoaz Hendel, and ask him how it feels to be one of the politicians most hated by the left.
However, if he violates the second promise, his fate will be similar to that of Moshe Ya’alon: He will sacrifice his political career to his hatred of Netanyahu. Those caressing him now, of course, will have no problem with that.
Does Sa’ar believe these left-wingers really care what happens to him? Or that Hecht is calling him a brave man solely for the courage he ostensibly displayed? After all, it’s clear that a “brave choice” from their perspective is the choice that serves their agenda – that is, breaking the promise that he will not sit in a government with Arab parties or even accept their support from outside the coalition.
Sa’ar is well aware what happened to Hendel, Zvi Hauser, and Orli Levi-Abekasis, who wouldn’t agree to hold their noses and abet the formation of a government with the support of the Joint List. They immediately became objects of disgust for an entire camp that is blinded by hatred of Netanyahu. One assumes Sa’ar fears a similar fate. But if he falls into that trap, he will be acting against his deepest beliefs and prove that he isn’t made of the stuff prime ministers must be made of. Certainly not prime ministers from the right.