Opinion |

Israel Longs for Bidenism, and It's Ready for an Election Now

A photo of Dr. Zvi Bar'el.
Zvi Bar'el
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Benny Gantz emerges to face protesters demonstrating near his home in Rosh Ha'ayin, August 9, 2020.
Benny Gantz emerges to face protesters demonstrating near his home in Rosh Ha'ayin, August 9, 2020. Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
A photo of Dr. Zvi Bar'el.
Zvi Bar'el

The timing of the next general election is the hottest topic in the media and political arena today. The self-proclaimed psychics say that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s calendar has settled on June as the best time for him. The new coronavirus vaccines will begin to ease the pandemic and a national budget will be passed, making people feel as if the economy is on the road to recovery. Netanyahu’s court dates may be postponed over and over again: Bibi’s lawyers are sure to argue that to continue the trial during an election would pose a concrete threat to the offender’s chances of being elected, and in any event by then the political opposition will have crumbled into dust.

Netanyahu’s rivals want the election to be held at an earlier date, when the virus is still raging, mass vaccination is distant, the state budget is an abstraction and, most important, the battered and humiliated public is thirsting for revenge. Each side’s reasons are loud and clear. Only one small problem remains. Who the hell will run against Netanyahu? Who will succeed in mobilizing the public protest, bringing in the Arab sector and kneading all those with inflated egos into a functioning dough that would persuade the public to believe that there really is a Messiah.

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In the alternative arena there is a draft blowing that is shaking up the ghostly figures who inhabit it. Benny Gantz again? Gabi Ashkenazi once more? And perhaps the brothers Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett? Ah, around the corner waits Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, our future is in his past. But there isn’t a single name of a leader who meets all the ideal specifications of the center-left. It doesn’t have a Netanyahu.

And in fact, there is no such person, neither in Israel nor anywhere else. Because the false notion that only one person can lead a country has been nurtured by Bibi for years, while he imitates authoritarians past and present, until the public becomes hostage to the charms of the image of the brilliant leader without whom there is no life.

This lie has brought about a situation in which any candidate, from any party or movement, is forced to pass personal tests of ability in order to convince us why he is the one and only. There is no disputing the fact that the candidate’s personality and characteristics should be carefully examined, but they cannot replace the political infrastructure on which he will rely. That infrastructure, as the Haredim have taught us, when strong and resilient and united can even offer incompetents as its representatives and still record impressive achievements.

Nobody is sure of the names of their lawmakers or is capable of describing the ideological differences between their parties. But together they have created the brand name “The Haredim,” with all its belligerent connotations. It also seems that very few people are familiar with the names of Joint List lawmakers. But together they built the strong political brand called “The Arabs.”

And in the center? There they shake like a leaf just from being defined as leftist, and therefore they don’t represent an idea but only last names. Not a movement, but Gantz, Avi Nissenkorn, Lapid. If “left” is too scary they can adopt the sobriquet “liberals,” which is easier to digest. But they have to be ready for an election in March, with a joint leadership and with a focused mission, which is as dedicated as the rescue teams who beat the chest of a dying man. Such a bloc doesn’t need a magician as a leader. The magic will lie in the change of consciousness, so that this time there will be something to vote for, and not for against someone.

Gantz tried to sell the idea of the liberal state, but failed and crashed when he joined Bibi, and therefore intensified the sense that the center-left has no leader. His collapse is personal, but not because of his ideas. In order to continue the political survival of the liberal idea, the size of the liberal bloc must be increased, in order to embed the feeling that there is a strong and threatening alternative that is worth joining, because it will win.

The United States didn’t elect Joe Biden because of his charismatic personality or his military past. It chose Bidenism. Israel longs for Bidenism, and it is ready for an election, now and not tomorrow.

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