קו מפריד עליון

Benny Gantz
(or: How not to lose your reputation in sixty seconds)

Benny Gantz, until recently the great hope of many Israelis, is taking the stage, bruised and bloodied, for the “last dance”. Politicians too must understand that the persona they market to their constituents must be consistent with the goods they deliver, a fact that has already been realized by some

The hotlist of names for the next Knesset is getting hotter. Political lists rise and fall, candidates are popping up like mushrooms after the rain. Meir Goldberg wrote the lyrics for “Empires Fall Slowly”. And it’s true. Typically, they fall slowly (ask the Labor Party). But few are the empires that have risen and fallen as quickly as that of Benny Gantz and Blue and White as the brand he continues to lead. Over three successive elections, in which they were perceived as the leading alternative to the government, Gantz and his “cockpit” (Ashkenazi, Lapid and Ya’alon) consolidated their power by achieving a number of mandates, the likes of which has not been seen since the 1996 elections with their two-bloc war. Memory tends to plays tricks on us, but at the start of the COVID-19 crisis in March 2020, the four were still united. Gantz has since lost his three buddies, and he is one of the saddest men in town. Surrounded by friends and enemies alike telling him that his time is over, for the time being he has not budged. Caesar is bleeding, gravely wounded by yet another traitor, as he perceives it – Avi Nissenkorn, Minister of Justice in the power-sharing government with a rotating prime ministership (which of course, didn’t materialize), who switched to Huldai’s incubator. You may or may not feel compassion for the man, but the fact that Gantz’s case is indeed an especially sad one is indisputable.

Gantz was launched to the public as a star. Handsome, tall, strong, there wasn’t a superlative that wasn’t mentioned. “The next Rabin”? works. On the eve of his launch of the Israel Resilience Party (“Hosen Le’Israel”), which was to become his core in Blue and White, the left-centrist camp held its breath in excitement. A former Chief-of-Staff, good-looking, highly regarded, whose declared target was to overthrow Netanyahu’s rule.

And then came the negative attack on Gantz and on his character. Its goal was to undermine his legitimacy as a candidate for the office of prime minister. Under the vicious attack, Gantz disintegrated. When it was suddenly announced that his phone had been hacked by the Iranians, this spawned gossip about mistresses who controlled him, media stories about advisors who had betrayed him, while his gaffes in interviews portrayed him as tongue-tied and inarticulate. And of course, the fact that his conduct in the real world was on a par with that of a novice parliamentary aide didn’t help – from breaking his main election promise not to serve in a government led by a prime minister under indictment through a series of humiliations perpetrated by Netanyahu to his willingness to break yet more promises to protect Israel’s justice system.

The sad case of Benny Gantz once again proves that one can build a reputation over a lifetime and lose it in an instant.

Why does this happen? Because of negligent management of the intangible.

(As a rule), a man will not rush to gamble on his entire fortune, amassed over an entire lifetime, so why would he rush to concede his greatest asset, his reputation? Just because it is an asset that is unquantifiable?

The truth is, that restoring one’s public name is like climbing a greased wall bare-handed. The credit that was lost is seldom regained. And what’s more, wasted credit also recolors the past. Ask Ehud Barak. Gantz has announced that he will run again in the upcoming elections, and it looks as though he is doubling the stakes as he gambles to stay on the playing field. This is his last dance.

As opposed to Gantz, Nissenkorn is thriving. When he entered the political arena, Nissenkorn was perceived as pale, grey, and what’s more – as an electoral burden on Blue and White. The Likud didn’t hesitate and invested a great deal of resources in warning against the possibility that the former Histadrut Labor Federation chairman was liable to become Minister of Finance. Once a red flag, always a red flag. Or not.

But Nissenkorn was born again in the short-lived two-headed government. Nissenkorn was born again in the Israeli public arena as Minister of Justice, and one who will fight to protect the rule of law, attacking every attempt by Netanyahu and his people to change the rules of game in the justice system, refusing to give in in the face of any violation, minor and major alike, of the coalition agreement. In his interviews as well, it was hard to miss the venom in his eyes and the knife between his teeth, consequently creating the impression that this is also how he goes to work, fearless – as opposed to Gantz, who admitted that it was hard for him to wake up in the morning to go to school.

Just like Gantz, only the opposite – a man who has made his name recolors the past. Like an ironic gesture to the public: Remember when you didn’t appreciate me in my prior jobs? Now do you get it?