Opinion |

Election Results: Israel Is Being Held Hostage by One Person, and It's Not Netanyahu

Noa Landau
Noa Landau
MK Yoaz Hendel campaigning for New Hope in Jerusalem a few weeks ago.
MK Yoaz Hendel campaigning for New Hope in Jerusalem a few weeks ago.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Noa Landau
Noa Landau

Israel is currently being held hostage by one person. If he chooses to, there will be a government, and if he doesn’t, we’ll go to the voting booths for a fifth time. This is not the first time this person is about to drag us into another debilitating political campaign, in the midst of one of the greatest economic and health crises ever to afflict this country. And no, it isn’t Benjamin Netanyahu, nor is it the pivotal Naftali Bennett or Mansour Abbas.

The person yet again holding the entire country by its unmentionables is Yoaz Hendel. Yes, the statesmanlike one with the good looks and down-to-earth air, who has been seen washing floors and making coffee over a bonfire, all with a faux-bashful smile. He’s the person who has repeatedly prevented the country from returning to a path of sanity. This time he has relocated to the New Hope party, under the leadership of a new sucker called Gideon Sa’ar. But the ploy is the same ploy. This time too, one of the greatest obstacles to forming a government of change is Hendel’s refusal to form a coalition supported by the legitimate representatives of Israel’s Arab citizens.

According to the final results, the bloc for change has the required 61 Knesset votes for forming a government that will replace Netanyahu’s, even without any favors from Naftali Bennett, predicated on the Joint List and United Arab List either joining or supporting it. Yesh Atid has 17 Knesset seats, Kahol Lavan has eight, Yisrael Beiteinu and Labor have seven each, New Hope and Meretz have six each. The Joint List has six and United Arab List has four. Another possible scenario is that Bennett joins such a group and the Joint List remains outside the coalition or withdraws its support.

Beyond the issue of ego-driven battles over leading the bloc, and the expedition on which UAL leader Abbas has embarked, this group should, in principle, have the best chances of uniting around the single issue of replacing Netanyahu and preventing another election. But this group has a problem: Sa’ar's party, and really Hendel, who is in fact the most extreme element, but has the look of a moderate.

It’s true that other members of New Hope including Sa’ar himself, as well as Ze’ev Elkin, are not exactly fans of Arab-Jewish collaboration - on the contrary. But they are also seasoned politicians and pragmatic when necessary. They realize that Netanyahu will do anything in order to win, and that anyone wishing to replace him must take the same approach.

Hendel, in contrast, is already guilty of foiling an opportunity to replace Netanyahu in the last round of elections. Then, along with Zvi Hauser, he starred in the role of the only hindrance to forming a government led by Benny Gantz, with the support of the Joint List. As revealed by the mediator at that time, Ofer Shelah, understandings were reached already even with Avigdor Lieberman, another politician who historically objected to forming a government with Israeli Arabs. But at the last moment, Hendel and Hauser torpedoed it all. Gantz couldn't make them toe the line, and the rest is history.

In a period in which the economy is in desperate need of a budget, Sa’ar - if he’s serious about replacing the criminal defendant - must succeed where Gantz failed. He must put Hendel in his rightful place. Beyond the fact that there is nothing wrong with a coalition supported by representatives of 20 percent of the population, it would be ridiculous to refrain from doing so while Netanyahu is about to agree to sell his left kidney to Abbas in order to form a government and evade trial. But Hendel doesn’t care. Even before the election he was quoted as saying that his goal was not necessarily to see “Bibi and Sara packing their bags.”

It’s time that people realized who is really responsible for the political Gordian knot entangling this country: the man hiding behind the smiling image of a reservist making coffee over a bonfire.

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