The spotlight on Benny Gantz’s dramatic move toward a unity government headed by Benjamin Netanyahu, at the cost of dissolving the partnership with Yesh Atid and Telem, obscured a no less dramatic move made at the same time by the leader of Yesh Atid, Yair Lapid, toward Haaretz.
With perfect political choreography, Gantz turned his back on Lapid at the very moment that Lapid – after years of boycotting Haaretz and hurling virulent epithets like “it’s anti-Zionist, anti-Israeli and it’s no longer really a newspaper” – published a lengthy, serious essay, as befits “thinking people,” in the paper, setting forth his political credo (Hebrew edition, March 27).
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Is it possible that these were not just two unconnected moves, which occurred concurrently only by coincidence, but were actually two political seismic waves resulting from the same political earthquake triggered by the coronavirus pandemic?
The dramatic force of Lapid’s act should not be underestimated. From the moment of its genesis, Yesh Atid defined its identity as the opposite of Haaretz. Lapid branded himself by means of the artificial and forced negation of everything identified with the newspaper, be it Breaking the Silence, the Palestinians or the “infiltrators” from Africa. Lapid and Yesh Atid depicted Haaretz and the Israeli left as a caricature, and then savaged them for the purpose of self-determination.
The falsity was obvious to everyone, of course. Only Lapid and his associates thought that their alienation from their “natural” milieu was perceived as an authentic difference between them. And the more that Lapid endeavored to dress up as a right-winger and a member of the “national” camp, and to batter the left and hammer universal values, the more glaring became the phoniness of his political activity.
An examination of the tectonic shifts in Israeli politics since the outbreak of the coronavirus indicates that a process of restart is underway. Just as Israelis returned home in the wake of the virus, perhaps we are now seeing a return by all the political actors to their true selves.
The pandemic created circumstances that compelled them to break away momentarily from their group and set up a national team to represent Israel in the “war against the coronavirus.” That is the logic of the emergency government. But in contrast to soccer, where after the World Cup tournament Lionel Messi ceases to represent Argentina and resumes playing for Barcelona, the restart effect of the coronavirus might lead to a situation in which the return to political groups – ahead of an election – is not necessarily a return to the same group as before. If an election were held now, would you vote for the same party you voted for last time?
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Before the pandemic, the Tel Aviv leftists of Yesh Atid masqueraded as right-wingers, pushing the military old guard from Kahol Lavan into the arms of Lapid’s orbit, and forcing the tired Labor movement, led by its unnatural duo from Sderot and Beit She’an, to unite with the tattooed kale eaters from Meretz.
The pandemic has not yet been eradicated, but already Kahol Lavan and Labor have reportedly decided to conduct negotiations on running together. Setting aside for a moment the brutal sense of betrayal harbored by their voters, isn’t the hookup between Kahol Lavan and Labor more natural than that between Kahol Lavan and Yesh Atid, or between Labor and Meretz?
Doesn’t it make sense to also rip the masks off Yesh Atid and Meretz – the party that advocates Jewish-Arab cooperation, which shoved its only Arab MK off the slate – and to acknowledge a simple socioeconomic truth: that the two are first-degree electoral relatives?
Perhaps the coronavirus pandemic will reboot the old hookup between Shinui (the party of Lapid’s father) and Ratz (forerunner of Meretz), with the coronavirus being recorded as the matchmaker of the marriage that’s called for between them. Is there a future for Meretz with Yesh Atid?