Will Netanyahu Be Able to Hold Off the Rise of Israel’s Political Center?

Will Netanyahu Be Able to Hold Off the Rise of Israel’s Political Center?
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with former Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, Jerusalem, Feb. 16, 2015 (AP photo by Sebastian Scheiner).

It wasn’t exactly Gen. Douglas MacArthur vowing, “I shall return.” But when former Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon announced on May 20 that he was stepping down from the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, and taking a temporary leave from politics after losing his post in the Cabinet, he added a caveat laced with more than a little bravado: “I have no intention of [permanently] leaving public life,” he declared. And in case his former boss, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, missed the thrust of the promise, Yaalon added, “I will return as a candidate for national leadership.”

With that, the former chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces took the first step on a path to challenge Netanyahu, who hopes to become the longest-serving prime minister in the country’s history.

Yaalon, or “Bogie,” as he is known, is a relative moderate, center-right politician, and he is also a man with a strong security background. That puts him near the sweet spot of the Israeli political spectrum. It is in the political center that the newest sprouts of activism are rising in Israel, and it is from there that the next Israeli political force is likely to emerge. What remains to be seen is whether that force, and whoever ends up leading it, will have what it takes to topple Netanyahu.

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