The Unlikely Man Who Can Bring the Left to Power

If Moshe Kahlon can bring in disillusioned voters from the center-right, he has a good chance of ending the Netanyahu era.

Iris Leal
Iris Leal
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Moshe Kahlon.
Moshe Kahlon.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Iris Leal
Iris Leal

If anyone hoped the state comptroller’s report on the prime minister’s residences and the bad press that followed would influence voters, he doesn’t understand the biology of public corruption. When corruption repeats time after time shamelessly, the civic DNA mutates in a terrifying way.

And now, only 38 years have gone by - the blink of a historical eye - since the discovery of corruption at the top of the Labor Party. This shook the country and contributed to the disgust with the ruling party, which hastened the 1977 revolution.

Since then corruption has become so standard that the question “how can it be?” seems emotional. More and more people believe that corruption is indefatigable, so it can’t be prevented.

Chronic surrender to every form of abuse and degradation - government corruption is a form of intentional cruelty toward the people - becomes a shrug of the shoulders of weakness, self-deprecation and even empathy. The height of this distortion is when Israeli idealism in its new incarnation is a euphemism for the corrupt.

I’m talking about the anti-sucker, the one buoyed by a breach in the system, the one who openly and proudly prefers his own personal good, the one who becomes rich by exploiting the finest of opportunities. And as everyone knows, the government provides a sea of opportunities.

Israeli Labor Party leader Isaac Herzog. Credit: AFP

For this reason the left’s latest hope in this election is Kulanu party leader Moshe Kahlon, a born and bred Likudnik, as he loves to say. “I am from the real Likud, the one that knows how to make peace and give back territories,” Kahlon has said. “I belong to the conservative and responsible Likud.”

I assume that in “conservative and responsible” Kahlon aims to distinguish himself from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu - maybe not polished and elegant, but not contaminated or tarnished either. Not Don Corleone with his dubious charm, but also grateful that he’s not completely Fredo, his dissolute son.

So now Kahlon - who was educated at Netanya Academic College but in four years moved from being Uzi Landau’s bureau chief to being a top man on the Likud ticket - is the only one who can speak directly to disappointed Likud voters.

He has to convince them that his decision to give up making it rich doesn’t reflect weakness. He has to promise them that even though he doesn’t have a spark in his eyes and fire in his loins, he’s at the right temperature. He has to remind them for the millionth time that he’s the one who vanquished the tycoons and reformed the cellphone market.

If he does all this, he has a good chance of bringing many people over to Kulanu. He has a good chance of ending the Netanyahu era.

The moderate wave of euphoria of the Tzipi Livni-Isaac Herzog tie-up is beginning to fade. Instead of shooting his bolt in an attempt to renew the momentum, Herzog should encourage Kahlon to eat away at Likud.

And if possible, Herzog should reach a gentleman’s agreement with the members of his party who are known for their vengefulness. It is said Herzog is a sophisticated politician, so we can assume he understands that Kahlon isn’t just “a real Likudnik.” He also seems to be “a real working man.” Certainly more than Livni.

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