Israel Election Results: Why the Arab Alliance’s Endorsement of Gantz Is a Big Deal

Kahol Lavan is essentially a right-wing party led by generals. Benny Gantz, its leader and candidate for prime minister, launched his political career eight months ago with videos boasting about the hundreds killed by the Israeli military under his command in two Gaza campaigns. The No. 4 on its slate and candidate for defense minister, Gabi Ashkenazi, was Gantz’s predecessor as Israel’s military chief and commanded the equally devastating Operation Cast Lead – the Gaza war in the winter of 2008-09.

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Then there’s Kahol Lavan’s No. 3, Moshe Ya’alon, a former Likudnik who once called Peace Now a virus and is adamant that a Palestinian state won’t be established in this century. And just for once it’s worth mentioning the party’s No. 2. He had a very vague military record but after the 2013 election, when there was an opportunity for a centrist government, not under Benjamin Netanyahu, he memorably said on election night that his Yesh Atid party “won’t join a bloc with the left and the Zoabis,” referring dismissively to then-legislator Haneen Zoabi of the Balad party.

– Haaretz Weekly Ep. 41

Haaretz Weekly Ep. 41Haaretz

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Kahol Lavan’s platform is not that different from Likud’s. It has no plan for solving the Israel-Palestine conflict beyond “separating Israelis and Palestinians.” Many of its members are ex-Likudniks and ex-candidates for Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu party. Basically, Kahol Lavan is a slightly more moderate Likud, just without the overt corruption, with some adherence to Israel’s limited democratic ideals and without the fanatic devotion to Netanyahu. Calling it “centrist” is a misnomer.

This long explanation about Kahol Lavan’s true nature is to emphasize just how much of a big deal it is that the Joint List, representing the various political parties of Israel’s Arab citizens, has now endorsed Gantz as a potential prime minister in its consultations with President Reuven Rivlin on Sunday evening. It should be taken as a sign of just how badly the voters who sent the 13 Joint List representatives to the Knesset last Tuesday want to integrate into Israeli society.

The last time they endorsed a prime minister was 27 years ago when they endorsed Labor’s Yitzhak Rabin. Since then we’ve had the Oslo Accords, the collapse of Oslo, a terrible second intifada that included the riots in which police shot and killed 13 Arab Israeli citizens, and long years of bloodshed in the West Bank and Gaza. Not to mention the mainstreaming of anti-Arab racism.

So the endorsement is a big deal. It doesn’t mean that the Joint List will be part of any government Gantz will lead, if he ultimately succeeds in forming a coalition. There is no prospect of that. And as Joint List Chairman Ayman Odeh said Sunday afternoon, their main objective here is ending the Netanyahu era. The racism that Netanyahu has legitimized since his poisonous “the Arabs are going to the polls in droves” video on Election Day 2015 is finally being answered. The future is another matter.