Reprinted from Gush Shalom
ON MONDAY, the 19th Knesset voted to dissolve itself, less than two years after its election. For many of its members it was a sad day, a kind of political hara-kiri. They have no chance of re-election. Some of them are so forgettable, that I do not recognize their names or faces.
The day after, a political bomb exploded on the TV news. Channel 10 -- slightly more liberal than the two others -- published the results of a quick public opinion poll by a respected pollster.
They were amazing.
THE FIRST result was that the Labor Party, after its union with Tzipi Livni's "the Movement," will be the largest party in the next Knesset.
Israelis gasped. What? Labor? A party seen by many as clinically dead?
Of course, this is only the first of hundreds of polls to come before election day, March 17 2015. Yet the results had their impact. (Two other polls since then confirmed its findings.)
A second result was that Likud, in second place, would get exactly the same number of seats whether led by Binyamin Netanyahu or by his putative challenger, Gideon Sa'ar, an unglamorous party functionary (and a former employee of mine). As Interior Minister, he excelled mainly in persecuting African asylum-seekers. (At the last moment, Sa'ar gave up his challenge to Netanyahu.)
Is it possible? Netanyahu the Great, the "King Bibi" of Time magazine, no longer a vote magnet?
Ya'ir Lapid, the hero of the last elections, shrunk to half his size. Like the gourd in the Book of Jonah, "which came up in a night and perished in a night."
But the real sensation of the poll was something else: though Netanyahu still headed the list of preferred candidates for Prime Minister, Yitzhak Herzog, the leader of Labor, came so close as to make no difference.
Only a month ago, such a result would have appeared a hilarious hoax. At that time, Netanyahu had an unassailable lead, towering over all the dwarfs around. Conventional wisdom had it that "there is no one else."
Now there is. Herzog! Herzog?
HERZOG IS the German word for duke. Yitzhak, commonly called Buji (that's what his mother called him when he was small), is indeed of aristocratic origin.
His grandfather, Yitzhak Herzog (after whom he was named, according to the Jewish tradition), was the Chief Rabbi of Ireland. He had such a good reputation that he was called in the 30s to become the Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Palestine. He was considered (comparatively) liberal.
His son, Chaim, studied in England, excelled as a boxer and joined the British army in World War II. He was serving as an intelligence officer in Egypt when he met Susan Ambash, the daughter of a rich local Jewish family.
The two Ambash girls were sent on Saturdays to the synagogue to fetch Jewish officers and bring them home for the Shabbat meal. On one Shabbat they caught two -- one Chaim Herzog and one Aubrey (Abba) Eban. They married them.