Kahlon Must Not Lend Credibility to an Extremist Government

The leader of Kulanu must build an axis with Zionist Union over socioeconomic issues and avoid joining Benjamin Netanyahu's coalition.

Olivier Fitoussi

You win elections by facing the center. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, however, broke to the farthest right corner of racism and incitement. And we are not only talking about Netanyahu’s main message: “The Arabs are voting in droves.”

The main political rally on Netanyahu’s behalf was organized by Daniella Weiss and her Nahala settlement organization, which establishes the illegal outposts of radical “hilltop youth.” The same Weiss who was convicted of attacking Israeli officers in 2008. For his victory anthem on election night, Netanyahu welcomed to the stage the inciting singer Amir Benayoun, who previously compared the left to Satan and that it “is interested in destroying all the Jews.”

Netanyahu’s campaign focused on the Arab vote. From the Likud campaign headquarters, under MK Yariv Levin – and under the direct supervision of Netanyahu himself – thousands of settlers acted up at the Arab polling stations. And who set in motion and managed this move, in direct contact with Netanyahu? Sagi Kaizler. Netanyahu’s representative in this key election project was a man of the illegal outposts, a man who sees the right of Arabs to vote in “our country” as a bad, temporary thing.

Kaizler has served for the past six years as director of the Samaria Residents’ Council. This is where he created the “Wandering Jew” video clip, inciting against leftist NPOs for being collaborators with the “European-Nazi foreign governments.” According to Kaizler, smiling on Channel 2, Netanyahu liked the clip and appreciated his efforts.

The fact that the prime minister of Israel chose unrestrained incitement is horrifying. And the fact that many voted for it is serious. But it is vital to remember this: It was many, not a majority. Likud and the parties that were partners to Netanyahu’s incitement against Israeli Arabs and the “anti-Zionist left” – Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman and Habayit Hayehudi head Naftali Bennett – received 44 Knesset seats out of 120. Just a bit more than a third is not a majority. It would be a mistake to label the voters of Shas and United Torah Judaism as extremists. Politically, those voting for Moshe Gafni (UTJ) are moderates. But even with them it is still a minority of 57 Knesset seats.

To add Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu party to this band of extremists would be a crude lie. Sure, Kahlon was on the right of Likud, but so was Tzipi Livni. Kahlon changed, and attacked Bennett for being a “hilltop youth.” His party slate is moderate and conciliatory. What do new MKs Rachel Azaria and Israel Prize laureate Eli Alaluf have to do with extremist incitement?

An examination of the voting shows that Kahlon drew the majority of his votes from the center and center-left. In other words, the voters who previous backed Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid), Shaul Mofaz (Kadima) and Shelly Yacimovich (Labor/Zionist Union), not Likud. In Netivot, a Likud stronghold, he received 3 percent of the votes. Even less than on many kibbutzim. Kahlon has not spoken to Netanyahu for the past 18 months for a good reason. It is not just personal – the conciliatory Kahlon has no future amid right-wing extremism.

It is accepted that the vote was divided between those who wanted “change” and the supporters of the existing government. All the voters from Kahlon leftward wanted change: 63 Knesset seats. A small majority, but still a majority.

It is worth examining the election results. What stands out is the return of Labor, for the first time since 1999, to the position of a large party that can competes for power. This after being consigned to being the third largest party in the Knesset, not even the leader of the non-right. In the previous election, Labor received about 430,000 votes. This time, as Zionist Union, it was closer to 800,000: Enough to return Labor to center stage and to build an axis with Kahlon over socioeconomic issues.

Kahlon and his party hold the key. Without them, Netanyahu does not have a majority for legislation, which changes the rules of the game. The majority that voted in favor of change, moderation and social reconciliation is also the heart of the vote for Kulanu. This majority can stop much of the evil. It is possible to stop the initiatives of the extreme right. It is in Kahlon’s hands. The Herzog-Kahlon axis can still lead. Israel is waiting for Kahlon.