After the crushing defeat of the Left in Israel’s recent election, we must ask ourselves, where do we go from here? But first, we should ask ourselves, what happened? How is it that more votes were cast for parties that would have blocked Netanyahu’s return to power than those who voted for parties backing Netanyahu. The percentage of the Arab electorate that voted was higher than expected. Overall, the percentage of the Israeli electorate which chose to vote in this election was relatively high. The failure of the Left was not due to its voters but due to its leaders.
Lapid, Michaeli, Ouda, Abbas and Shehadeh all contributed to the loss of mandates on the left. Michaeli refusing to discuss a unified ticket with Meretz led to the hundreds of thousands of wasted leftist votes. Abbas and Ouda not reaching an agreement on surplus votes lost mandates while Shehadeh taking Balad out of the Joint List to run separately guaranteed more lost votes. Finally, Lapid, who up until this point has acted as the responsible adult in the room abandoned that role for his bloc, while his adversary, Netanyahu got the job done for his side.
What is clear from these elections, as if it wasn’t clear before now, is that the future of Israeli politics is based on blocs. As long as Netanyahu is in politics, and that could be for a very long time, the name of the game will be securing your party bloc to make sure that every vote counts towards mandates. In the future, small political parties are less likely to flirt with both sides to see what kind of deal they can make. Netanyahu has made politics too personal and too polarized for that sort of strategy to work.
Lapid’s job, as head of the opposition, is to build a bloc that will be ready to compete in the next election. That means building bridges to the other parties in the bloc and building bridges between those parties. Meretz and Labor must merge. The Joint List must reconstruct itself with Balad inside. Gantz must be convinced that being number two is his best option. Lapid must roll up his sleeves and get this done. If the leader of our bloc does his job, we will do ours and come out and vote.