The kombina candidate

In the last twenty-four hours, you, the nationalistic or right-leaning resident of Jerusalem, may have read some things which may have made you consider voting for Moshe Lion. Perhaps an endorsement from certain ministers, factions or MKs in the Likud or Yisrael Beitenu.

Ignore them.

Moshe Lion might be a capable administrator, more nationalistic than Nir Barkat, or even more Yerushalmi in his heart than Barkat, as he has claimed. But that doesn’t change the fact that since he became the Likud’s candidate for mayor, he has become a living embodiment of the kombina – the shady deal.

That’s because he is a product of the political culture which has a stranglehold on Israel’s potential and which is killing the Likud, turning it into a shell of a party instead of a thriving political movement befitting the legacy of Jabotinsky or Begin.

Lion was chosen to be the Likud’s candidate for mayor of Jerusalem, not in a primary, but by a vote-contractor, and the leaders of Yisrael Beitenu and Shas, two non-democratic parties.

He was not selected by these people because he had a great following within Jerusalem. He has no following in Jerusalem.

He was chosen because he is their man. In other words, he is their political pawn, moving across the chessboard at their initiative and command.

Why are they moving this piece? Is it because Barkat would not come to terms with them? Did he not give the right people jobs? Is it part of a targil (sneaky maneuver) by Aryeh Deri to earn Liberman’s loyalty and bring down the government as Deri recently claimed? Probably all of the above.

But none of us commoners will ever know, because he was not chosen in an election or on the basis of a platform. He did not beat out another candidate. He did not earn our trust. He was chosen in someone’s living room or the backroom of a party headquarters. And if he wins the election it won’t be because he appealed to the people, it will be because blocs were told to vote for him.

Nor does it seem as if Lion is truly running for mayor for Jerusalem’s greater good. If he becomes mayor I expect that is what he will try to achieve, but if he was so concerned about the allegedly wrong direction of the city under Nir Barkat, where was he before being appointed the Likud’s mayoral candidate? Where was this voice of loyal opposition? And if being mayor of the city is so important to him, as opposed to some opportunity that came along at the last second, why was he chosen and not campaigning for public support beforehand?

Being a resident or now an ex-resident of Givatayim, should not, in theory, automatically disqualify Lion. Carpetbaggers sometimes make good representatives because these ambitious politicians still need the public’s support. In this case, however, that won’t be true, because Lion’s prospective reelection, five years away, would not depend on the public, but on his political overlords.

And the fact that he was not until recently a Jerusalem resident does raise the question as to why a Jerusalemite could not be found. Why is the Likud (and to a lesser extent, Yisrael Beitenu and Shas) failing to produce candidates who can earn broad public support within Israel’s capital, i.e., politicians who are here all the time and not just when the campaign season begins?

Because of the kombina culture. Quality politicians or winning candidates are not necessary when loyal allies can be installed or when deals benefitting party insiders can be made.

Some of my friends in both Yisrael Beitenu and the Likud may be shocked at these words. They are stuck in the mentality that holds that the party and its leaders can do no wrong. Failed elections campaigns, overly negative commercials directed at other nationalist parties, the endorsement and lack of opposition to Palestinian statehood, the release of terrorists to put feathers in John Kerry’s cap – none of these can shake their politically comatose state.

I recommend that they, for a moment stand in the shoes of any non-party affiliated onlooker who has no party-based interest in the election, and for whom the decision of the party or party leader is not the end-all of political thinking. To these people – the average voter, Lion is so obviously a kombina. It’s just silly to deny.

As one who has given more than the better part of his time since making aliyah fighting for the Likud, I will not vote for the kombina culture that is killing it.

The more we put ourselves in the shoes of the average voter who sees this so clearly and the more we make our politics about appealing to those voters on a long-term basis, and not toeing the party line or shoving a candidate down the public’s throat at the last second on the grounds that the alternative is worse, the more support the party will have.

And in this case, in the eyes of the average voter, who votes according to his own conscience and quality of life concerns – as he should, Nir Barkat is not doing a bad job at all. Ever since I immigrated to Jerusalem from that other capital of Jewish life, I have felt that Jerusalem is headed in the right direction, even if at the maddeningly slow pace of Middle Eastern progress.

That’s not something I recommend throwing away because a last-minute candidate pulled out the nationalist card just before the election, even if he is our parties’ candidate.

About the Author
Daniel Tauber is an attorney and a Likud Central Committee member.