There's a Scent of Change in Israeli Politics

If the Israeli voter manages to rise above his belly button, he may seize change before disaster strikes.

Yoel Marcus
Yoel Marcus
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Israeli Labor Party leader Isaac Herzog (R) and former justice minister and Hatnuah party leader Tzipi Livni, January 14, 2015.
Israeli Labor Party leader Isaac Herzog (R) and former justice minister and Hatnuah party leader Tzipi Livni, January 14, 2015.Credit: AFP
Yoel Marcus
Yoel Marcus

If our nostrils do not deceive us, a scent of change seems to be rising from the political system. While Bibi hopped on a mourners’ flight to Paris, this time without the double bed and without Sara with suitcases filled with dirty laundry to wash in the host hotel, and was the only leader to wave to the masses – things were happening in Israel.

The Israeli parties are undergoing a facial transformation. The winds of turnabout are blowing. In Labor (running at the head of Zionist Camp, the party’s joint election slate with Hatnuah), worthy women won the first slots on the ticket, unlike what happened in Likud. Shelly Yacimovich will be a senior minister and is undoubtedly an important figure beside Herzog and Livni. A sort of Mapai’s Golda Meir.

Other parties are also showing signs of reshuffle. Shas is without Rav Ovadia, Deri is emerging as the nation’s leader in the role of wheeler-dealer while Eli Yishai may disappear from the political stage with his unholy nastiness.

In Yisrael Beiteinu, Lieberman is shedding his colleagues, some because they’ve had enough of him, others because he’s had enough of them, but most because they’re too involved in police investigations. Lieberman’s future is foggy. He’ll either retire to private business or start acting like a real foreign minister, who works for his country rather than for his dear friend Martin Schlaff, the Austrian millionaire.

Kahlon, posing as the always-smiling leader, is making it clear he’s not returning to Likud. He promises to be moderate with a pinch of extremism. It’s not clear how he’ll respond when the settlers start demanding their share for the Land of Israel. It will take him a long time to understand that the settlement problem is not as simple as the cellphone-for-every-citizen revolution.

Most voters don’t want to see personal bickering or extreme figures in their party’s ranks. Likud succeeded in pushing out Moshe Feiglin, with his Jesus-like face, but there’s no certainty that Likud’s Jesus won’t find a way to be elected outside the party. In any case, Netanyahu’s move to oust Feiglin from the party’s ticket was misleading – because Bibi has remained the same Bibi.

The women’s presence on Likud’s slate is pathetic. Apart from the loud Miri Regev, there’s no change. And if there’s no change it’s sliding backward. Because if you want to stay in the same place, run – as Alice was told in “Through the Looking Glass.”

Habayit Hayehudi hasn’t yet realized that renewal is about moving to the center. Habayit Hayehudi has remained the same – a homophobic party turning toward the past. Bennett should not be surprised if, despite all the enthusiasm around him, he loses some of his strength and is not a key player in the next government.

But ultimately, it’s about Zionist Camp. The large number of women on the list will bring a dramatic gain in the polling stations. Judging by the new ticket, the slate’s main concerns will be those that drove hundreds of thousands into the streets to protest three years ago. Despite his not-so-high slot, economist Manuel Trajtenberg is the one who will lead, with Yachimovich, Stav Shaffir and Itzik Shmuli the commandos pushing from behind. Not endless blabbing, not cutbacks, not pointless price hikes and tax increases, but a real solution to the housing problems. Until Shaul Mofaz comes aboard or not, Labor has found its Bar-Lev line – a figure with a military background – in Omer Bar Bar-Lev, formerly the commander of the elite unit Sayeret Matkal.

What will become of Yair Lapid is not clear. The boasting went to his head a little, and as a journalist he sure knows how to talk. Recently he said Bibi showed the world the power of the Israeli who elbows his way to the front row in Paris. Lovely nonsense. But no more nonsensical than some of the statements made by Kahlon, Lieberman and even Netanyahu, who still portrays himself as a world expert on terror.

It’s of crucial importance that the intelligent voter see the grim picture of our economic, social and strategic situation. It’s also important he notice the renewal in Labor. Mr. and Ms. Israeli Voter, rise a little above your belly button. Change is in the air. Seize it before disaster strikes.

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