If They Will It, Israel’s Center-left Parties Can Rule

Yesh Atid, Hatnuah, Labor and Meretz could create a 61-seat bloc in the 120-seat Knesset.

Niva Lanir
Niva Lanir
Niva Lanir
Niva Lanir

A few days ago Amir Oren wrote in this section that Benjamin Netanyahu was a “serial failure.” He said it was a “waste of time, energy, money and attention” for Netanyahu to continue as prime minister and that the Geneva agreement had sealed Netanyahu’s legacy as an ineffectual leader. He said Israel needed new leadership.

Oren is right. The prime minister’s conduct these days is hysterical and remote from the historic achievements he hoped to reach. It would be good if he left the stage of history before he entangles Israel in problems again and again.

Is this a mere wish or is it attainable politically?

To be attainable, three conditions must be met: new elections (not a reshuffling of the current Knesset), a dismantling of the Netanyahu-Lieberman-Lapid-Bennett axis and the creation of a new axis of center- and left-of-center parties: Yesh Atid, Hatnuah, Labor and Meretz. They have the power to create a preelection bloc that would account for at least 61 of the Knesset’s 120 seats.

The one stumbling block for this option has already been removed – MK Shelly Yacimovich. The former Labor chairwoman grandiosely blocked any attempt of this kind. The only figure who earned her total commitment for cooperation was Netanyahu. What a pity there’s no ready-made leadership on the shelf at Ikea.

The clichés, not the wine, flowed at Yacimovich’s press conference. And of course, after two or three responses, we heard that “Labor is my political home” and “you don’t leave your home.”

In Yacimovich’s case, maybe it’s too bad there’s no leaving home. There wasn’t and never will be any chance for her to be elected prime minister. That’s not so terrible; Shimon Peres didn’t have a chance either.

What, you don’t leave your home? Really? What nonsense and ignorance. David Ben-Gurion didn’t leave? Moshe Dayan didn’t leave? Peres didn’t leave? They all left parties twice. Ariel Sharon didn’t leave? Ehud Olmert and Livni didn’t leave? They both left parties twice. And Haim Ramon, Dalia Itzik, Amir Peretz and Eud Barak didn’t leave? They all left. In Israeli politics, the relevant question is not why one leaves, but why one stays.

Recently, after Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai was elected to a fourth term, he was interviewed by Channel 2 journalist Dana Weiss. It was an impressive interview. Huldai didn’t waste words and was clear and precise: The government isn’t governing, it’s messing everything up in infrastructure development, education and health. The migrants from Africa aren’t going to disappear even if they are put in one sort of camp or another; they must be allowed to work and live as human beings. So must the Palestinians, he said. They’re not going anywhere, and we have to reach an agreement with them.

Later, Weiss asked Huldai if he would run for national office in the future. Yes, he said, even for prime minister, but “you have to know when to jump on the political wagon,” signaling his intent to be a leader, if not the leader, of the center-left.

Huldai should start warming his engines now, and he should bring a few friends with him, not to jump on the wagon, but to get the wagon out of the deep mud. It won’t be easy.

Huldai, Holon Mayor Moti Sasson and former security chiefs Meir Dagan, Amos Yadlin, Uri Saguy and Yuval Diskin (for starters) need to join Labor Party leader Isaac Herzog and Hatnuah chief Tzipi Livni. And Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid needs to remember and remind his friends that over the last two decades two strong movements were created, Shinui and Kadima, and became extinct. And if Lapid joins up with Herzog, Livni and Meretz chief Zahava Gal-On, and the four of them agree that after an election the head of the largest faction will form the coalition, maybe Israel will have a new leadership.

The center-left could take control over the Knesset, if it tries.Credit: Eli Tamsa

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