Opinion

Instead of Tossing Out Fantasies, Kahol Lavan Promises Voters a Good War

The leadership of Kahol Lavan on the Gaza border, Aug. 6, 2019.
Eliyahu Hershkovitz

This is what the promise of an alternative looks like: Four pompous middle-aged men standing next to the Gaza border one afternoon spouting haughty threats and making empty pronouncements. At least they didn’t also send a blue-and-white arson kite flying into Gaza, as a loony right-wing activist did a few months ago. But they sound almost as loony as he does. And unlike him, they have the potential to cause danger.

“The next time something happens here, we’ll make sure the round (of fighting) is the final round,” prime ministerial candidate Benny Gantz, the leader of the Kahol Lavan slate, recites from his new list of talking points. “We’ll pound the whole area with fire, we’ll operate on the ground whenever we want, where we want, as much as we want and for as long as we want,” he says. The term “campaign promises” used to refer to unrealistic fantasies tossed out to voters about a sudden improvement in their quality of life. Now they’re promising people a good war.

It’s all reminiscent of nothing so much as the unforgettable opening scene in Hanoch Levin’s “You and Me and the Next War,” where a general whose soldiers have all failed to return from battle, stands and addresses the empty parade ground: “In 11 minutes, we managed to destroy, wipe out, bombard, trample, crush, slice, chop, blow up and smash our enemies.” Fifty-one years have passed and nothing has changed.

>> Read more: Netanyahu vows unprecedented response if Gaza flares up - but it's the last thing he wants | Analysis

Three of them are former IDF chiefs of staff, so they wear the uniform of a retired general: a black polo shirt and black pants. The fourth was only a corporal in the IDF magazine Bamahane, but he excelled later as a television personality, so he wears a blue button-down and declares, “on our watch, Hamas won’t get suitcases full of dollars. They’ll get a guided missile right into their home.” This is apparently part of the jostling for votes with Avigdor Lieberman, who once gave Ismail Haniyeh 48 hours before his head would be separated from his shoulders.

Tell me, Kahol Lavan, have you lost your minds? Did you get sunstroke? Were you blinded by the neon lights at the office of your political strategist Moshik Teumim? This is your election campaign – war before everything? All of you were part of the top decision-making team in the decade of “managing the conflict” and “rounds of fighting.” I don’t recall any of you being involved in any “total victory.” You all know there is no such thing, that these are empty words.

In any event, the damage is real and immediate, because what you’re doing is adopting the kind of talk that characterizes the populist and settler right, including the new bit of rubbish that was also stated on the same occasion: “We are a security right and a diplomacy left.” You can’t talk about a diplomatic left without proposing a diplomatic plan. And there is no such thing as a security right. All of Israel’s military victories came under left-wing governments. Right-wing governments brought us the Lebanon War and the 2014 Gaza War.

Yes, we need to replace Benjamin Netanyahu. Not because of the “blind hatred” for him, as some of my colleagues argue. He earned the hatred honestly and it is not blind – there is good reason for it, and it is actually motivated by love: a love of country. Netanyahu must be replaced because he is wantonly corrupting and wrecking the country and its people. But intellectual and moral honesty also requires one to say: not at any cost. Not by means of promises of war and war crimes.

This could encourage a panicked Netanyahu to try to show, even before the election, that he’s also able “to restore deterrence,” and also because with Gantz promising a major ground incursion after the first kite, one also has to ask – Just who is going to be entering Gaza: Avi Nissenkorn? Omer Yankelevich? Yair Lapid? No, it’s our children who would be entering crowded and starving Gaza. They’re the ones who will kill and be killed there, and nothing will change.

There’s no point in filling politics with generals if instead of trying to bring peace, they instigate war. All over the world, the right uses fear to win elections. The left’s weapon is hope. The generals from Kahol Lavan mostly inspire despair.