The most politically astute song of Israel’s March 2021 elections never planned to be political.
Check out the great dance song of the Giraffot from a couple of years ago, “There’s a hole in my heart that’s the shape of you – Yesh Li Khor baLev baTzurah shelach — ייֵשׁ לִי חוֹר בַּלֵּב בַּצּוּרָה שֶׁלְּךָ”
The song only really has three lines, one of which is also the title: I have a hole in my heart that’s in the shape of you. Later on, just to make sure we know this is romance and not cardiology, we have the line in English: “I love you baby-by” And finally there is the cute line sung by the female vocalist: “He is so sweet, sweet, sweet — hu kazeh matok, matok, matok — הוּא כָּזֶה מָתוֹק מָתוֹק מָתוֹק”
And there you have it. A three-line song that characterizes and symbolizes the entire reason this country is yet again going to the polls and that encapsulates the quandary of at least half of the electorate.
How so? For this a little background is necessary. (Feel free to skip the next few paragraphs if the Gantz/Bibi tale is familiar to you)
Israeli elections were once about ideology and policy. Yet for the last few years, they have all been about the personality and the personal actions of Bibi. (Bibi is the nickname of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — this will be significant later on.) All reference to the Palestinians, the economy, or religion and state, has largely been ignored.
Most voters in Israel choose not to vote for Bibi. His Likud party rarely receives much more than a quarter of the vote, yet he has tended to become Prime Minister because enough smaller parties are willing to support him. Just like in the United States, Israel’s electoral system is built on the idea that all sorts of mini-parties agree to compromise and blend together into a larger force. Unlike in the United States, this blending into a roughly-Left coalition or roughly-Right coalition does not happen before the elections, but only afterward.
Up until recently, it has been relatively easy for right-leaning parties to unite around Bibi, but terribly difficult for centrists and leftists to unify around an alternative to Bibi. That is, until Benny Gantz came around. This tall, blue-eyed former Chief of Staff arrived on the political scene just over two years ago, and turned everything on its head.
Suddenly there was an alternative to Bibi that other small parties could follow. Two parties committed to joining Gantz even before the elections. Similar to Bibi, it was unclear what his ideological bottom line was, but he was statesmanlike enough for many center-left voters to project their ideologies on to him.
He was statesmanlike enough for many center-left voters to project their ideologies on to him.
Gantz was the great (white) hope of the anti-Netanyahu camp. He made incredible strides. His party gained over a million votes, and he became the most credible rival to Netanyahu in years.
But then in April of last year, he gave Bibi what Bibi wanted, and what most of his voters did not: He joined Netanyahu’s government. His Blue/White party split into pieces. Gantz signed a deal with Bibi that everyone apart from Gantz knew Bibi would not honor.
Which is where the song comes in.
After what they called his “betrayal”, a crowd of protesters would gather outside Gantz’ home in Rosh Ha’Ayin. There they would sing their own version of the Giraffot song.
With only one slight alteration.
Instead of singing “Yesh li khor balev batzurah shelach” — I have a hole in my heart in the shape of you”, they sing “Yesh li khor balev batzurah shel Gantz” — I have a hole in my heart in the shape of Gantz.
The chorus line for the entire anti-Bibi camp
This could be the chorus line for the entire anti-Bibi camp. All suffer from a weeping hole in their hearts in the shape of Benny Gantz. In the shape of a hero who might save them from Netanyahu and from their own divisions.
Ever since then, the anti-Bibi camp has shattered into a million smaller pieces. Gideon Saar left Likud in order to threaten from the Right. Yair Lapid remains in play, Shelach and Huldai fell by the wayside, and even Gantz is running again with low chances of even making it into the Knesset.
So who is left dancing to the Giraffot?
The song itself makes clear: “I love you bay-Bibi, I love you bay-Bibi…”