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By labeling Arabs an ‘existential threat,’ Bibi invokes a terrifying history of ethnic violence

The prime minister organized an emergency Likud gathering Sunday night, in which he accused Israel’s Arab citizens of supporting terror and wanting to destroy the State of Israel. We know how this kind of thing can end.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in a bitter struggle to prevent his challenger from establishing a government with support from the Arab-led Joint List party, has again accused Arab party leaders of representing an existential threat to Israel. On Sunday night, Joint List Chairman Ayman Odeh responded by circulating a photo on social media of himself in pajamas, reading stories to his three doting kids. “At the end of a long day, I’ve got to put these existential threats to sleep!” he wrote, to viral delight.

While it is satisfying to see Odeh eviscerate Netanyahu with humor, the prime minister’s words pose grave danger in themselves.

Netanyahu’s frenzied anti-Arab diatribes are accelerating in pace and severity. In 2015 he warned that Arab citizens were voting “in droves.” Prior to the September election, his Facebook page stated that “Arab politicians want to destroy us all.” (Netanyahu said it was a campaign staffer’s mistake.)

On Sunday, Netanyahu held an “emergency” meeting of Likud members (the emergency was not a rain of rockets but the possibility of a minority coalition backed by the Joint List). There he thundered that the rival Blue and White party was negotiating with the Arab MKs, who, he insisted, “support terror organizations and want to destroy the state.”

Unable to locate evidence that the Joint List leadership, made up of longtime politicians and civil society activists, have either the inclination or the means to destroy Israel, he instead quoted Ayatollah Khamenei of Iran, who recently called for the destruction of Israel. These are execrable words, but they fail to turn the Ayatollah into an Arab politician in Israel.

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More worrying, conflating Iran’s “existential threat” with Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel mimics the ideological rhetoric behind some of the worst ethnic violence in the world.

A close look at the origins of these atrocities shows that perpetrators held warped images of imminent destruction, which led them to commit extreme violence against a collective other, justified as national defense. Leaders and elites often fused genuine historical collective trauma with any current political challenge or injury, as proof of impending annihilation.

In the early...

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Netanyahu might be on his way out, but Israelis remain firmly right wing

Voters might be weary of Netanyahu’s decade-long reign, but the numbers show that the vast majority of Israelis remain consistent in their voting habits.

The cashier at an organic food shop in Tel Aviv was a burly man with a crew-cut. I asked if he had voted, but he didn’t understand the question. Then he explained in halting Hebrew that he had immigrated only nine months earlier from Russia. “I don’t understand Israeli politics,” he said. But he managed to convey one thing clearly: “Bibi, he’s been in power too long. I come from Russia, we have Putin. Too long. I don’t want Israel like Russia.”

Outside a ballot station in the city center, a 72-year-old woman named Dalia, who has always lived in Tel Aviv, was decisive: “I vote for Netanyahu, because there’s no one else like him – on security, on foreign relations, he’s a wonderful foreign minister.” With one eye on her grandchild, she added that Netanyahu is among the 18 people with the highest IQ in the world.

Do the corruption allegations bother her? As long as he hasn’t been convicted, she says she believes Netanyahu’s claim that the charges are baseless. The investigations are mainly due to the left-wing media. “They can’t tolerate when something good happens – they have to trip him up.”

Had he voted, the cashier could claim victory in Tuesday’s elections. Based on his assumed demographic group — most Russian-speakers from countries that were formerly in the USSR are firmly on the right — he is unlikely to be a left-winger. On Tuesday, a small percentage of right-wingers threw their support behind Avigdor Liberman, who had promised to prevent another Netanyahu-led right-wing religious government.

This is a tiny group: Liberman won 4 percent of the vote in April; with about two-thirds of the results published, he won just over 7 percent on Tuesday.

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The 3 percent difference, however, will be significant; by the final tally, Liberman will have eight to 10 seats. Netanyahu had 60 seats for the right-wing bloc in April and needed Liberman to reach 65. Liberman’s additional seats make him the kingmaker: without him, Netanyahu cannot come close to the number of seats he needs to form a governing coalition.

Israelis who voted for the right wing parties in April but who decided this time that they were ready to end Netanyahu’s reign voted for Liberman. Any...

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If voters won't get rid of Netanyahu, will the elites do it for them?

The same political system that Netanyahu thinks he has mastered could now bring about his demise.

If it was up to the Israeli public alone, Benjamin Netanyahu might well continue as prime minister when the vote on Sept. 17 is over. Polls so far show almost no change in voting patterns for the ideological party blocs from April, when the right wing parties won a majority of seats, as they have for the last decade. The opposition parties of the center, left and Arab parties continue to hold a minority.

But an outright win for Netanyahu looks increasingly unlikely. A handful of political elites, and Israel’s complex coalition-bargaining culture, might finally bring about Netanyahu’s exit.

One such leader is Yisrael Beiteinu’s Avigdor Liberman, who has been a shoe-in for Netanyahu’s coalitions in the past, and has held top ministries under his leadership. Liberman is now saying that he will recommend a unity government, rather than Likud under Netanyahu, to form the next coalition. Since none of the ideological blocs of parties have 61 seats (out of 120) to form a coalition without his party, Liberman’s demands could carry even more weight than in April, when he won five seats. Polls consistently predict he could get roughly double the seats now.

A unity government refers to the idea that Likud and Blue and White would form a coalition, possibly without the ultra-Orthodox parties, who have joined nearly all Israeli governments, with just a few exception, over Israeli history. Polls indicate that these two large parties could win a near or outright majority of seats between them. To many Jewish Israelis, unity sounds like a good idea.

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The latest Peace Index from Tel Aviv University shows that 30 percent in total would prefer a unity government, broken down into those who prefer their party to lead – either Likud or Blue and White. Combined, these options top the list of options in the poll. Together with Liberman, a unity coalition could have a large, stable and secular government.

However, Blue and White, headed by Benny Gantz, has stated that it will not join a coalition led by Netanyahu. Over...

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The biggest myth about Israeli politics

It’s tempting to believe that non-politicians are the antidote to bad politicians, but it’s also wrong.

In 2011, the Israeli pop singer Roni Superstar released a song called “Adoni” — literally “my lord,” or colloquially, “sir.” For sarcastic overtones, “His highness” will also do. Here is my free translation:

His Highness will tell me what he knows/ His Highness will make sense of what I ought to think… His Highness wishes to be Prime Minister… His Highness thinks he is so smart…”

The otherwise banal song kept surfacing in my mind during the last election cycle. Something about it seemed apposite.

Just before the party lists closed, there was frenzied speculation over which generals would go where. Would former Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon merge with Benny Gantz, and would ex-Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi join them? Each man wanted to enter politics on the condition that he would serve at the top: either he would have a shot at running the country, or vault into the role of a top minister. Winning the election was practically an afterthought.

Why did the generals think starting at the top was a reasonable expectation? Probably based on two main presumptions.

One is the myth that generals enjoy mystical credibility among Israelis, a belief that comes very close to entitlement. The other is that outsider politicians are all the rage, and not only in Israel. Voters are sick and tired of the old politicians; therefore, a candidate who is not tainted by “the system” automatically scores points. Both approaches are based mainly on empty clichés.

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The idea that a dues ex machina will arise to create a nation out of scattered opposition tribes needs to be retired. Even Moses had political training – he was raised in the court of kings.

It’s logical that non-politicians are the antidote to bad politicians, but it’s also wrong. A decade ago, Barak Obama was the star “outsider;” now the fresh faces among American Democratic candidates are Bernie Sanders, Beto O’Rourke, Elizabeth Warren, Kemala Harris, and Pete Buttigieg. All have political experience. They are emerging leaders, but they are already politicians.

Isn’t Donald Trump the triumph of the outsider, a great roar of defiance against politicians? Absolutely. He is also the last person the Israeli opposition, or anyone else, should emulate. Emmanuel Macron looks like...

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The Israeli opposition failed. Here's how it can redeem itself

Israel’s next coalition stands to be one of the most pro-annexationist parliaments in the history of the state. Now, it’s up to the opposition to defend democracy.

Dear Opposition —

There is really no way to say this nicely: you failed.

You failed in the campaign, and you have failed over the past decade, while Netanyahu governed with a far-right hand.

Blue and White, you failed to realize that voters who oppose Netanyahu wanted a difference in substance. By the end, I heard too many people complaining that your party didn’t have any.

Perhaps you thought that anyone who wants Netanyahu out enough will come running without any bait. Many did – that’s the bulk of your 35 seats. But Netanyahu’s natural opponents were already voting for parties on the center or left, which represent just over 40 percent of Israelis. Cannibalizing them helped no one. To be sure, it seems clear that some votes came from the right, too – Moshe Kachlon lost six seats, and overall the right-wing bloc lost two.

But you knew what you really needed were moderate right-wingers who supported Netanyahu in the past, who were considering defecting, to weaken Likud. Anyone who voted Netanyahu in 2015 clearly isn’t motivated by long-term resentment – they break with him on specific issues. Why didn’t you address any? Instead, you pilfered figures from Netanyahu’s earlier governments and posted ads with a gruesome ticker counting dead “terrorists.” Instead of offering an alternative, you offered a second-best version of him.

I hated your terrorist body-count ad, but at least the conflict was an issue. Another Blue and White ad even mentioned peace, but these spots were soon gone, and within the first weeks of campaigning, there were no more issues.

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As I’ve heard it from the soft right and wavering Likud voters, they were unhappy with the erosion of democratic norms. In my B’Tselem survey, 42 percent of the moderate right hold favorable views of the Supreme Court, almost double the number of firm right-wingers (just 25 percent). The issue is splitting the right.

What if you had promised to strengthen the judiciary and other pillars of democracy, and fight back against the assault on liberal democratic norms, instead of burying the issue of “rule of law” on page 18 of your dry,...

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Poll: Jews, Arabs much less divided than Israeli politics lets on

A ‘Local Call’ poll shows a broad range of areas where Jews and Arabs see the benefits of cooperation. But that doesn’t mean Jewish Israelis are ready to let Arabs hold positions of power, namely joining the government. The surprising bit: most Arabs would support their parties joining an Israeli government.

Judging from the current Israeli election cycle and the various campaigns competing, it would be easy to conclude that Arab and Jewish citizens of Israel have completely failed to build a shared life together. The campaigns are filled with insulting and racist messaging that is being disseminated every which way.

It’s a shame that Israeli leaders aren’t more attentive to the majority of the country’s citizens, who support values of cooperation, believe that relations between Jews and Arabs in the country are already good, and acknowledge the national identity of the other — the Jewish and Palestinian peoples, respectively. Those observations aren’t a lofty leftist theory, but the results of a new poll commissioned by Local Call.

The poll was written and analyzed by Dr. Dahlia Scheindlin and David Reis together with Local Call. The internet panel was conducted by New Wave Research between March 28 and April 1, and included a sample of 414 Arab and 411 Jewish Israelis (weighted to their actual proportions in society). The sample was drawn from an internet panel; the margin of error is 3.5 percent.

Despite the predominant appearance of schisms and hostility between the two populations in Israel, most of the Jewish respondents (53 percent) said that in their day-to-day lives, relations between Jews and Arabs are generally positive. Only one-third reported negative relations in their personal experience. An even smaller minority (13 percent) said that they don’t have enough contact with Arabs to answer the question. In other words, the overwhelming majority, 87 percent of the Jewish respondents, based their answers on personal experience.

Broken down along ideological lines, the results refute the common claim of right-wingers in Israel that they are the only ones who really know Arabs (both in the occupied territories and Israeli citizens) due to their geographic proximity, as opposed to ideological leftists from Tel Aviv and its suburbs. The poll shows the opposite to be true: 20 percent of Jewish right-wing respondents said they have no contact with Arabs in their day-to-day life. Among left-wing Jewish respondents, only 6 percent said they have no contact. Among...

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Why these Israeli elections actually matter

Netanyahu looms so large that he has become a symbol of everything that’s right and wrong with Israel. But behind the symbol stand two very substantive visions of where Israel is headed.

Like most weeks over the last decade, this was a week of Netanyahu. It began on Saturday evening when the prime minister gave a rare, surprise live television interview on Channel 2. The interview was his first to a mainstream Israeli media outlet in four years, guaranteed to make news for that reason alone. From there he flew to Washington to receive a prize from President Trump: American recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which Netanyahu called a “Purim miracle.”

When a surprise rocket attack from Gaza sparked potential escalation, Netanyahu made the surgical calculation to stay in Washington just long enough to keep his meeting with Trump, then flew back to Israel. His challengers were left at the AIPAC conference in Washington, looking much less important. As a ceasefire took hold, Netanyahu’s supporters praised him for avoiding a war. But had there been one, they prefer Bibi to be at the helm. It’s hard to avoid the feeling of determinism: Heads he wins, tails his opponents lose.

For his supporters, everything good is due to Bibi — from the Israeli moon mission and Eurovision, to wars fought and wars averted. For the opposition, Netanyahu is the source of anti-Arab race-baiting, the normalization of corruption in politics, democratic erosion, the creeping annexation of the West Bank, and the end of the two-state solution.

Netanyahu has become the national prism for each Israeli voter, supporters and opposition alike, to credit or blame him for everything. The campaign is often described as a referendum on Netanyahu.

However, the idea that Netanyahu is the master of all things bad or good is another myth that it’s time to bust. First, it’s not true. Second, the idea that it’s all about him is dismissive and unfair to the pro- and anti-camps in Israeli society; in other words, disparaging to the general public.

As for all those seething at Netanyahu’s leadership on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and internal issues, it’s time to put his actual influence into perspective.

It was Labor, not Likud, that led Israel during the Six-Day War, and Labor built both the infrastructure of the occupation and the settlement project, until...

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In Israel's elections, only the far right is talking about democracy

A new campaign ad by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked signals that this time around, only the far right is talking about democratic norms — and how to undo them. Does the opposition have a response?

Of all the aspects of political campaigns that voters love to hate, none is more maligned than the political advertisement. The term “30-second spot” has become synonymous with dumbing down, mudslinging, and manipulation of political campaigns ever since the Daisy Ad.

But punchy ads are great. They can help de-code the strategy each party has chosen, and short scripts packed with narrative are enormously revealing about the country’s electorate, seen through the eyes of the candidates. Political campaigns are us, the voters, reflected back to ourselves – even if we don’t like what we see.

This week, Israelis looked into the campaign mirror and saw Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, with the ad that launched a thousand memes and at least as many headlines. In just 44 seconds and with only five essential words, Shaked redefined democracy in Israel.

In a mock-up of the familiar “Obsession” perfume ads, a vixen-voiced narrator lists the minister’s policies to weaken and restrain the Israeli justice system. “Judicial revolution,” she purrs, “reducing [judicial] activism, appointing judges, governance, separation of powers, reigning in the Supreme Court.” The ad sarcastically refers to these policies as bottled “fascism.” Shaked then lifts a bottle of perfume towards her face, sprays and utters the five critical words: “Smells like democracy to me.”

The ad crystallizes a bitter divide of this election that has bubbled below the surface for years. Shaked didn’t just say “the court needs to be restrained” or “I’m against judicial activism.” She said that these positions are democracy itself.

On one side of the divide lies Israelis who believe that the Supreme Court is among the most important state institutions, an essential check on other branches of government. They view the assault on the court by right-wing governments of recent years as an attack on democracy itself.

The other camp views the court as an unelected leftist group of elites, who uphold human and civil rights of minorities – even Palestinians. This side is not necessarily against human rights – there are few complaints when the court rules against accepting evidence of Jewish suspects whose rights were violated in the process. It’s the...

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What the candidates in Israel's elections say about the conflict

For a long time, politicians perpetuated the idea that Israel sought peace and a two-state solution, even while taking contradictory steps on the ground. In these elections, that dissonance seems to be dwindling. A look at what each party is saying.

The scramble to predict who might win the Israeli elections is understandable, but it begs a towering question: Will the next government actually change anything? To hone in further: Will it change Israel’s direction on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

The left is inclined to say there’s no difference between centrist challengers Blue and White party and Netanyahu’s ruling Likud. Netanyahu’s campaign slogan “Bibi or Tibi,” referring to a prominent Arab politician, is a compact way of saying that anything to his left means the end of Jewish identity in Israel.

How is a voter to gauge the difference between the parties’ policies regarding the conflict? Maybe voters aren’t trying. A survey I did for B’Tselem in December found that just over one-fifth of respondents chose “resolving the conflict” as one of their top two national priorities — on a list of six problems Israel needs to solve, it ranked fourth.

The parties appear to be mindful of the public disinterest. On Monday night, the Geneva Initiative held an event billed as “the great debate” on policy toward the conflict, scheduled with representatives of Likud, Blue and White, Labor, The New Right (Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked’s far-right party), and left-wing Meretz. Likud and Blue/White cancelled last minute. It appears that the leading parties prefer not to risk losing control over any of the few words they release on this issue.

The two most serious contenders for Israel’s premiership may not have shown up, but a look at their platforms shows what the parties claim to stand for. What do they actually propose? Do they differ from one another, and would they truly change current policies? Here at +972 Magazine we often analyze how Israeli policy plays out on the ground for real people – but what does Israel tell itself it wishes to do?

Blue and White, the centrist slate challenging Likud, has been accused of having no coherent ideology than replacing Netanyahu. Still, the party managed to release a platform last week (Hebrew). The chapter on the conflict mentions the word “Palestinian” twice and nowhere else: first, to propose “accelerating economic development in Palestinian Authority areas”; and...

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How to read election polls, explained by an expert

When should you be suspicious of poll results? Can election polls really influence voter behavior? Do people lie to pollsters? Public opinion expert Dahlia Scheindlin has the answers.

Public opinion polls get things wrong, and not only in Israel. They failed to predict the 2016 American presidential election, Brexit, the U.K. elections in 2015, and the exit polls in the 2015 Israeli election. But anger at polls — and pollsters — can sometimes feel like misplaced anger at election results themselves. It’s as if disappointed voters think that if only pollsters had predicted Trump’s victory, paradoxically, that the result might somehow have been different.

Social science is an extremely fallible endeavor. The great scholar of democracy and public opinion, V.O. Key, once called political advertising people “insecure, ulcer-ridden hucksters,” and this is a species for which I feel some kinship. We are paid on the premise that human behavior can be measured and predicted with rule-governed formulas, in the desperate belief that if we crack the code we can change voter decisions.

But human decision-making excels at not following rules. Further, both candidates and readers tend to forget that social or other scientists impose personal, methodological, and social biases on our reading of the world, even if unintentionally. All this can make it hard to understand what we can and can’t know from polls.

In general, I advise being a critical consumer of any kind of research, not only when voting but also when deciding what to eat, how much to sleep, which medicines to take, how to understand sides of a conflict, or the attitudes of our compatriots.

Therefore, what follows is an attempt to answer some common complaints I hear about polls, and tips for how to get the most out of them instead. I’ll focus on the current Israeli elections, but hopefully the ideas are applicable to polls about politics in general.

There are three points at which polls can go awry: how the survey is designed and conducted, how it is reported, and how it is interpreted (by you, the readers). All of these should be considered when deconstructing the following complaints.

‘Israeli polls are of terrible quality’

Like anything, there is high and low-quality polling. The only way to distinguish between them is transparency. Even the most perfect poll is worthless if the methodology is not made available.

Any media report or poll publication...

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What will it take for Israel's right-wing voters to say enough?

A small group of right-wing voters could tip the balance and lead to a change of government in Israel. Who are these voters, what do they care about, and would a Kahanist party in the Knesset be a step too far?

Until one week ago, it looked unlikely that Benjamin Netanyahu could lose an election. It looked even less likely that the center and left-wing parties in Israel could ever outnumber the right-wing bloc to form a government. But last week, former Chief of Staff Benny Gantz merged with Yair Lapid’s centrist party and polls showed their new Blue and White party pulling ahead. Then on Thursday, the attorney general finally announced a long-anticipated decision to indict the prime minister on corruption charges.

Now, everything depends on Israeli right-wing voters. Their choice will determine if Likud and the right shrink sufficiently in April to herald a new era of leadership, or whether “King Bibi” proves unbeatable, yet again. All votes are equal, but some could change everything.

Since a stable plurality of Israelis – and a clear majority of Jewish citizens – are right wing, it has looked unlikely that the right-wing bloc will lose the 12-seat advantage it won over the center and the left in 2015. Yet on February 9, a two-week average gave the right-wing bloc just a two-seat advantage. A new average produced on February 25, just after the creation of the Blue and White party, showed an even 60-60 split (from a total of 120 seats).

These shifts could represent just a bounce for the new center party, drawn out by the attorney general’s likely indictment of Netanyahu; a bounce that can always fall. On the other hand, it doesn’t make sense to ignore polls – especially averages and trends – entirely.

Are some right-wingers planning to turn their backs on the bloc? Given the merger between the Jewish Home party with the extremist, Kahanist-inspired Otzma Yehudit, is it possible that the right has gone too far even for many of its own?

In recent years, the right has made it all too easy to brand its entire camp as racist, nationalist, populist and fascist. Since Netanyahu became prime minister in 2009, a slew of anti-democratic and racist legislation, creeping annexationist policies in the West Bank and ongoing torment of Gaza, as well as rhetorical attacks on Arab-Palestinian citizens, the left,...

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To unseat Netanyahu, his challengers risk becoming just like him

As party lists are finalized in the lead-up to Israeli elections, the big bangs offer little substantive changes. And the challengers of the center look uncannily like the current leadership.

A visual expression of the Israeli election campaign would look a lot like a Jackson Pollock painting. All of the parties running were required to finalize their lists on Thursday, and declare whether they would merge, split or stay single-by-choice. For 24 hours before the deadline, the parties darted around in a strategic frenzy accompanied by the relentless whine of 1,000 blooming rumors.

The latest changes should be seen in the context of the earlier dramas in the political system.

Start with the center and left: When elections were called, a new party led by former Chief of Staff Benny Gantz sprung up in the center of the Israeli political map, draining votes from the existing center party, Yesh Atid, and from Labor on the center-left. The new Labor leader, Gabbay, was failing in his attempt to tack right so, naturally, he lopped off his more centrist co-leader, Tzipi Livni. This week, Livni pulled out of the race entirely, after surveys showed her party failing to cross the electoral threshold. Yair Lapid saw his support flow with centripetal force towards Gantz. As the latter consistently won more votes in surveys, Lapid finally consented to join up with Gantz and take second spot, to maximize votes. The two banded together with former generals Moshe Ya’alon and Gabi Ashkenazi to form the “Blue and White” party.

The Israeli right wing can be faulted for many things, but not for complacency. Earlier in the campaign cycle, Jewish Home, the main party to the right of Netanyahu, broke apart: Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked left to form the “New Right.” The old Jewish Home party – well-stocked with extremists – was left competing for right-wing religious votes with both Bennett and a fringe party of fanatics called “Jewish Power.” Netanyahu’s reaction was a bit frenzied. In addition to indiscriminately firing off his poison arrows of “Left! Weak” at anyone in the Gantz crowd, Netanyahu cancelled a meeting with Vladimir Putin, a not-unimportant figure, to stay home and bribe the Jewish Home and the fanatics to merge as well. He promised them two ministerial positions if he wins, and they agreed to run on a joint slate — at the prime minister’s request.

What does all...

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It’s time to stop asking why the Israeli left has disappeared

For Israeli left-wing voters, nothing is more important than overthrowing Netanyahu. Yet despite their common cause, the left remains anything but united and it is polling at unprecedented lows.

There is one thing shared by nearly every Israeli who does not define her or himself as right-wing: a profound desire to oust Benjamin Netanyahu. And yet, despite all their efforts, none of the left-wing parties today look capable of doing so.

Polls show the left-wing Meretz party hovering near the four-seat minimum threshold to enter Knesset. and at least one poll had Labor down to just five seats in recent weeks. After Ahmad Tibi’s recent announcement that he would leave the Joint List and run independently, the two Arab parties reach 12-13 combined seats in most polls, the total representation of the Israeli left — notwithstanding wide variations between them — could be down to 21 seats (4, 5 and 12). Such a result would be unprecedented. These parties won 42 seats in the 2015 elections. When Labor had its lowest showing ever in 2009, the total still reached 27 seats.

Nearly 20 years after the Second Intifada precipitated the collapse of the Israeli left, it’s time to stop asking what happened. The real question is why after so many years has the left failed to resurrect itself — and whether it could do so in the future?

In the mid-2000s a fresh generation of leaders who were either young or new to politics seemed poised to put the party back on the map. Campaign billboards in 2006 showed “the team” — beaming faces including Ofir Pines, Yuli Tamir, Ami Ayalon, Avishai Braverman, Shelly Yechimovich, Eitan Cabel and the newly-elected leader Amir Peretz, who was generating a wave of excitement.

Tamir, Ayalon, Braverman and Pines have since abandoned politics altogether. Similarly, journalist Daniel Ben Simon entered Knesset during the term from 2009-2013, and then left.

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If leaders flee, is it any surprise that voters do as well? This week, the Labor Party elected a young and energetic crop of leaders to its top slots, while Meretz will hold its primary on Thursday. Can the two parties most closely associated with the left avoid the same fate?

I asked some of those would-be leaders from the mid-2000 what went wrong. Their answers ranged from the personal to the political...

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