The decision to give Tzipi Livni “half the kingdom” by agreeing on a joint slate was in part the result of the loathing for Benjamin Netanyahu felt by the Israeli left and the media establishment, including military media.
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This hostility is deep and pathological, and therefore it is also uninhibited and irrational. These emotions are a major component of the surprising and irrational conduct of Isaac Herzog, who until Wednesday, until he was caught in Livni’s web, was considered a sober, deliberate and honest politician.
In this fateful concession, it was not ego that Herzog set aside but rather wisdom. He, the Labor Party that he leads and the entire left-wing bloc will pay the political price for the service fee he gave to this aggressive, fickle, quarrelsome and politically unrestrained character. In the course of her political career she has never been loyal to any framework, party, idea or individual. She is liable to destroy this new framework, as she destroyed a number of frameworks in the recent past. Who will stop this unrestrained figure: an “ego-less” person like Herzog?
I respect Herzog. His personal deportment bests that of many of his colleagues, especially on the right. That has helped him to turn down the volume of grouchiness and divisiveness in his party and to restore Labor’s dream of returning to power. For just as for a gift blindeth them that have sight, and perverteth the words of the righteous, so too can the hunger to rule, and perhaps even more strongly.
It was this hunger, which will turn out to be the mistake of his political life, that drove Herzog to promise Livni half the kingdom. This she-camel, who has lurched from one political master to another, will yet show him that his most attractive attribute, his “lack of ego,” is in fact nothing more than a lack of leadership. In this case he isn’t an altruist, he’s a loser.
Her zigzagging and haughtiness have brought down more than one party. Livni, who has sworn loyalty to anyone who did well by her, abandoned her benefactors. She left behind scorched earth in every party. Just ask Ehud Olmert, Shaul Mofaz or any of the many others who were captivated by her charms until she grew tired of them and left them exploited, disappointed and betrayed. Now — after all, it’s a matter of character — she will muddy the waters in her new political home as well.
“Israel needs a Zionist government, not a cynical one,” said Livni, the most cynical figure in Israeli politics, without batting an eye. She got her start in Likud, where, as long as it benefited her, she proudly championed the vision of a Greater Israel. When Ariel Sharon, one of the greatest destroyers in Israeli history, proposed that she defect with him, she did not hesitate to jump ship and to champion, with the same vigor, the polar opposite of that vision.
Her reward for deserting Likud for Sharon’s new Kadima party was the post of foreign minister. At every station along the way she needled, hurt and abandoned, ready and willing to give her political loyalty to the next benefactor, who quickly became the next victim, as will Herzog. And in the way of suitors who court this type of character, each new suitor deceives himself, believing that she will be faithful to him — until he too is betrayed. She has destroyed people who were stronger than Herzog and more experienced than Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid, another suitor who, fortunately for him, “lost” the competition for her hand.
The state needs an effective opposition, a stable left. A left-wing bloc that is strong and united — without Trojan horses — could force the right, if only out of fear of losing power, to introduce radical reforms. The right needs this no less than the left does. It is its only chance for winning the election and remaining in power.