No General Can Save Us

In siding with Benny Gantz, Israel's leftists are chasing a dream of victory; soon, it'll become a nightmare

Benny Gantz and Moshe Ya'alon at the Hosen L'Yisrael campaign launch, January 29, 2019
Tomer Appelbaum

This is the first time that the Israeli public is being asked in an election if it is willing to have Bibi serve as prime minister even if convicted. We haven’t been asked something like this before. In previous elections, we’ve always been asked what kind of country we want to live in. In a country that occupies territories and is under occupation by rabbis, or in one that is enlightened and democratic.

The right chose a Jewish state that occupies territories and is occupied by rabbis. It has also won for the most part. The left ruled out an occupying and occupied state, and largely lost. This was the division between right and left before the advent of Benny Gantz. When Gantz showed up, the attitude changed. Suddenly the leftists are now in favor too. Not in favor of a criminal prime minister, but in favor of territories and rabbis.

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Not enthusiastically, not happily, but in favor, in any case. Not against. How did this happen? First of all, they’ll deny that they are in favor. Then they will swear that they are still left, but a pragmatic left, a left that aspires to victory. A left that has had enough of being a nice bunch that only wins the trophy for sportsmanship. Now they want a championship. They want a championship, but they also know that with what they’ve got, they have no chance of winning it.

They, who attended demonstrations and signed petitions and believed in the justness of the path, suddenly find themselves rooting for a team that sees just one path: the path to the championship. They will be the Maccabi Tel Aviv of politics. Maccabi is Israeli without Israelis? Well, they’ll be a left without leftists.

Obviously, leftism can be heavy baggage, and you always have to give up something. Shulamit Aloni was prepared to put on a shtreimel for peace, and leftists will give up leftism for a taste of power. This is just a temporary move, a wily one, even. We just put on a costume. We dressed up as right lite! We may have lost our identity, they admit, but not the dream. The dream of a fresh, clean, charismatic leader who will make our lives better (he said he would) and lead us to power (he didn’t say that). Such a leader could only come from the army. The wimpy left, with all its nauseating talk of morals, always dreams of a military leader – call him Barak or Rabin or Gantz.

Such a dream leader could only come from a dream army. Not an army of checkpoints and snipers, but a moral army with a conscience that is not our army. The army we know is far from this, but the left believes that a dream general from this imaginary army will bring it dream politics too. In the morning it will wake up and realize that this army cannot produce a moral and ethical leader, only Gantz.

You won’t see any dream politics here. Within days, the polished general will become a dirty politician. He’ll quickly learn the rules of the game. If the left is becoming the right, then why shouldn’t Gantz change his spots too? He’ll go for that old trick, “influencing things from the inside.” Barak did it, and Dayan before him and Yigael Yadin before all of them.

Barak, Dayan and Yadin influenced things from the inside the way an ant influences an elephant, but the left trusts in its own ability to “influence from the inside.” It is considering a complex genetic process that will transform Yoaz Hendel (“It’s impossible to achieve peace with the Palestinians”) and Ya’alon (“Peace Now is a virus”) into veiled leftists. Does this left also think that Peace Now is a virus? Does it also think there is no chance for peace? If getting into the government depends on the answers? Then yes and yes.

Call me a righteous pest if you will, but a million and more Israelis who won’t object to their prime minister being a convicted criminal worries me more than whatever will happen to him. The 30 Knesset seats (as predicted by the polls) that they will give him will change the rules of the democratic game. He will either retire or resign or be tried and sent to prison. Fine. He’ll go. He’ll go, but Regev, Levin, Amsalem and Bitan aren’t going anywhere, and no general, lofty as he may be, will be able to save us from them.

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