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The Secret of Gantz’s Popularity

Iris Leal
Iris Leal
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Benny Gantz at the Knesset.
Benny Gantz at the Knesset.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi
Iris Leal
Iris Leal

First it was Yisrael Beitenu chairman Avigdor Lieberman, who used Kahol Lavan as a threat and declared he wouldn’t rule out the option of recommending party leader Benny Gantz to form the government, on condition that they agreed to form a national unity government with Likud (spoiler, they agreed). (For the latest election polls – click here)

Now it turns out that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s son Yair threatened Ayelet Shaked’s emissary – who was working to secure a slot for her on the Likud slate, until the day she announced she would head the Yamina party – and told him, “We will form a government with Gantz.”

>> Read more: Support for Lieberman in liberal Tel Aviv? What we learned from talking to voters across Israel

Yair Netanyahu claims that Shaked joined up with Lieberman to oust his father. According to reports, the main intermediary on behalf of Shaked, Elyashiv Amitzur, presumably promised Yair that the woman who sent him would demonstrate absolute loyalty to his father, including support for his parliamentary immunity and influencing the attorney general to grant it. But Shaked was unceremoniously booted out.

However, that is not the issue at hand: After (allegedly) getting a glimpse at the changeability of Shaked’s values, and once again encountering Lieberman’s casual deceptiveness, it would actually be interesting to turn our attention to Kahol Lavan and its role as a kind of sorbet to cleanse the palate between courses, thanks to its leader’s most prominent character trait.

Gantz is Everyman. It’s easy to attack him for that, but when he chose the slogan “Israel before everything,” he didn’t roam far from the truth to present the essence of his party’s image, in light of the willingness of Netanyahu and his son Yair to pay a price, as long as they succeeded in destroying Shaked’s career; in light of Lieberman’s flip-flops, which at the moment look like an entirely personal desire to destroy Netanyahu politically; and in light of the covert war of succession in Likud. The fact is that for Gantz, the purpose is somewhat loftier than personal interest, not only as a slogan but as a psychological condition.

Should these words be considered as some sort of support for Kahol Lavan? Far from it. These centrist parties offer the direct opposite of a clear and firm political, social and diplomatic message, and they make gibberish of any discussion of principles.

But we have to understand why Gantz is holding his own in the election polls, where his strength lies and why. He is a default choice that, to the amazement of all of us, could break through what looks at the moment like stagnation in the electoral blocs.

Gantz wraps himself in a mantle of integrity and simplicity. For that reason, all Likud’s efforts in the April election were focused on pinning something really sleazy on him, some perversion that would wipe the composure off his face and cause his blue eyes to darken. In the present election the Likud campaign is trying to portray his simplicity as oddness, but that works mainly on their base.

The reason why Gantz seems like a man for all seasons is that he really is one, and his circles figured out that therein lies his main strength, and the consistent polls show that they were right. Gantz is painting Kahol Lavan in shades that differentiate it from the opportunistic political world that’s familiar to all of us. He is here to help everyone, including his rivals; Look how nicely he helped his rivals with the election of Yuli Edelstein as Knesset speaker and with the choice of Matanyahu Englman as state comptroller.

If Netanyahu only asks nicely, Gantz will help him cross the road to the other side and to his life as an ordinary citizen managing his trial. Because things happen sometimes by giving up control, and Gantz seems to have adopted the Zen saying: Treat troubles like happiness, treat surrender like resistance.

He doesn’t understand the verb “to achieve” as an act of motivation or appropriation. Those who say (meaning everyone) that Gantz doesn’t want it badly enough are right, but it’s possible that just as nirvana comes to the believer without his intention, the premiership is likely to come to Gantz only because he didn’t pursue it.

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