Avi Gabbay, leader of the opposition Labor Party, may have hoped to arrest the Zionist Union’s free fall in the polls under his leadership by getting rid of Labor’s partner Hatnuah and rudely dumping its leader MK Tzipi Livni without warning. He was, however, clutching at straws and unlikely to win more than a brief spurt in the polls by his bold step, because Livni had a point when she told her friends that Gabbay does not have what it takes to be a political leader or statesman – and lacks charisma.
Gabbay was therefore justified in sacking her from their joint list and removing her as opposition leader in parliament. (Gabbay is not a Knesset Member). Livni, who has served as foreign minister and minister of justice in former governments, used this platform to clamor for diplomacy with “moderate Palestinians.”
Both were right about each other, but this will not help them find their way to the light after their messy divorce. The campaign taking shape in the run-up to the April 9 election is increasingly volatile and beset by shocks. Livni declared in her first response to Gabbay’s action that she would continue to fight for her beliefs, starting with overturning the present government. Her chances of success are nil against Yair Lapid’s opposition Future and former Chief of Staff Benny Gantz’s new Israel Resilience. The polls are smiling on Gantz as a new face, but that could change after he unveils his platform and his list of candidates.
In the other camp, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and Education Minister Naftali Bennett, when they launched the New Right party on Saturday night, announced they were breaking away from the national religious Jewish Home Party to establish a new entity. This breakup has since been exposed as a carefully charted ruse for attracting non-religious voters as well as Lilkudniks and other right-wingers who are disenchanted with Binyamin Netanyahu’s leadership. That too may be only the first part of their plan. If Likud takes a beating from the voter, they will reunite and move in for Part Two.
Benny Gantz’s advisers immediately attributed the breakups overtaking the veteran parties to the “Gantz effect.” This was an amateurish attempt to capitalize on fissures that have long been highly visible and would have occurred with or without his arrival on the political scene.