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Can This Man Oust Netanyahu?

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TEL AVIV — Imagine if Joe Biden and Colin Powell announced that they were setting aside partisan politics and forming a new centrist party to save the country from Donald Trump. Then imagine that they were so serious about their goal that they promised to share power, rotating the roles of president and secretary of state.

Could they win?

That is the question Israeli voters are asking themselves. Last month, Benny Gantz, a former chief of staff of the army and a political rookie, and Yair Lapid, a former journalist and finance minister, came together to form Blue and White. (Mr. Gantz would serve as prime minister first, with Mr. Lapid as foreign minister.) The centrist party is named after the colors of the flag; its candidates are an all-star lineup of top military brass; and polls so far have put Blue and White neck and neck with Benjamin Netanyahu’s ruling Likud.

Over a week, I met many voters who say they will cast their ballot on April 9 for the centrists. Why? To a person, the answer boiled down to two words: Not Bibi.

I met Mr. Lapid on Thursday evening for tea at a North Tel Aviv cafe. When I ran this anyone-but-Bibi read of the election past him, he shot back that it was “dead wrong.”

In the hour that followed, Mr. Lapid, who calls himself a barometer of the Israeli center, made his case to me.

Voters are turning to his party because they are looking for basic morality, he said. While the sitting prime minister faces three charges of corruption, the men of Blue and White (the top eight of the 10 politicians on the list are men) are motivated by “old-fashioned, duty calls politics.” While Mr. Netanyahu’s message is one of division, Blue and White speaks about unity. And while Bibi has forged an alliance with the explicitly anti-Arab party Otzma Yehudit, Mr. Lapid said that a “racist” party “cannot be a part of a government in this country.”

The second difference between the men of Blue and White and Bibi, said Mr. Lapid, is how they see the role of Israel in a world in which democracy is on the decline. While Bibi has aligned himself with right-wing populists like Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil and Viktor Orban of Hungary, Mr. Lapid sees common cause with liberals like France’s Emmanuel Macron and Mark Rutte of the Netherlands. He hopes such politicians represent “a comeback of civil, moderate” leaders........

© The New York Times