This has not been a particularly good year for either Zionist Union leader Avi Gabbay or Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid.
Gabbay, who was elected with great fanfare in July 2017, has watched his support erode due to his own flipflops and scandals within his party. The flipflops have confused voters, who do not know what he or the Zionist Union stand for nowadays. Is the party centrist, as its former leader Isaac Herzog said, or left-wing and proud of it, as others in the party have declared? Is Gabbay for the two-state solution, or for not evacuating settlements? Is he for or against migrant workers? He has said both.
Gabbay was on vacation in Morocco when Channel 10 reported anonymous allegations that Zionist Union MK Eitan Broshi had fondled a woman in an elevator 15 years ago. He immediately tweeted that Broshi was a sex offender whose career is over and ended up with Broshi staying and suing him for libel.
The resignation announced by Zionist Union MK Zoheir Bahloul on live TV (though he still hasn’t actually quit yet), resulted in another questionably worded tweet by Gabbay, who basically said good riddance.
To his credit, Gabbay wrapped up Tzipi Livni’s succession of Herzog as opposition leader without too much of a turf war, as well as her signing on to continue the partnership with the Labor Party. But the real battle will be over former IDF chiefs Benny Gantz and Gabi Ashkenazi – there is no guarantee that Gabbay will be able to woo them.
What Gabbay has done is continue to crisscross the country for public events and meet prospective voters. This has not yet translated into a rise in the polls but it has shown how he can be diligent and might still pay off.
Lapid would also like to attract a former general to his list, and he does not have to go through the bureaucracy of the Labor Party. But are either Gantz or Ashkenazi ready to subjugate themselves to Lapid’s authoritarian rule?
What was said above about it being unclear to the public what Gabbay stands for is even more true of Lapid and his party. Lapid has taken Yesh Atid further and further to the Right and has been confusing on matters of religion and state, which in the past was the party’s strong suit.
Lapid repeatedly predicted on camera that the government was about to fall. It has not. Meanwhile, he has gone abroad repeatedly, helping with public diplomacy, which has given him an image of a foreign minister-in-waiting for Netanyahu’s next government. But the potential for an election focusing on religion and state could give Lapid a huge boost.
While polls today show Netanyahu leading, an indictment or another crisis could change everything. Both Gabbay and Lapid are the opposition’s clear alternatives. Time will tell if they will be given a chance to rejuvenate themselves and present an alternative or limp to the finish line.