Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has long proven adept at effortlessly spinning controversies that might hurt other politicians into electoral gold. But over the past week, the news cycle in Israel has been dominated  by an event that would seem to indicate in his panic to win reelection, the prime minister is losing his touch: Netanyahu’s decision to bar Congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib from entering the country. That crisis has compounded other controversies, including Bibi’s gaffe-filled visit to Kiev, accusations that Yamina head Ayelet Shaked made a promise to leverage her influence over the attorney general to protect Netanyahu, and a pre-indictment hearing for Shaul Elovitch, a key suspect in one of the prime minister’s many corruption cases. They have offered a bonanza of options for those trying to unseat Netanyahu, exposing his apparent main strengths as glaring vulnerabilities and driving home the degree to which he will  severely damage Israeli democracy to escape his legal troubles. And yet, the reaction from the leader of the largest opposition party, Benny Gantz’s Kachol Lavan, has been, if not deafening silence, then a tepid finger-wagging that sounded more like a message delivered by a cautious diplomat than a party determined to change a government it is so convinced is destroying the very foundations of the country.

These reactions should not be all that surprising. Gantz’s strategy in the follow up to April’s elections had been to counter Netanyahu’s significantly larger array of talents and experience in the political arena with a campaign that focused on moderation and a return to political decency. This was made all the more possible by Gantz’s record as a military personality who cuts an impressive figure, someone who, at least ostensibly, projects an air of authority. Media reports routinely noted that the former chief of staff was the first candidate in years that might give the prime minister a run for his money, and there is no doubt his calm and collected demeanor has aided in the creation and maintenance of this narrative.

Gantz’s goal and, more broadly, the political union that he later entered, appears to be to return Israel to a (undoubtedly fictional) pre-Bibi era, one in which democratic norms were taken for granted by much of the right, and the demonization of ideological opponents was frowned upon. To this end, Gantz hasn’t engaged in any particularly nasty mud-slinging, perhaps in the hopes of trying to embody the qualities of “hadar” by which the Likud of old defined itself. Of course, this hasn’t stopped Netanyahu and his allies from stooping to paint Gantz as alternatively a rapist, an Iranian stooge, and a mentally unstable incompetent.

Yet Gantz’s attempts at projecting civility also seem to have led him to mistakenly conflate vulgarity and shrill hysteria with confrontation of any sort. As a result, he has allowed himself to miss opportunity after opportunity to call out the prime minister’s many transgressions, giving the impression that he is either unprepared, or simply unable to grasp the seriousness with which he should approach such matters, hardly an attractive trait for those he seeks to draw away from the prime minister. Obviously, no one should have any illusions about an exodus of voters from Likud voters after an eleventh hour epiphany. In the age of populism, successful politicians have succeeded in establishing cults of personality and entrenching themselves in the psyche of their supporters. Attacks on Netanyahu’s policies, whatever they may be, will certainly be rebuffed by loyalists as smears, and there will be an inevitable circling of the wagons.

They aren’t the targets; it’s those voters on the edges who currently feel politically homeless after watching the slow deterioration of Likud over the course of the last decade and have wandered to and from flash-in-the-pan, center-right parties like Kulanu and Gesher. But Gantz’s seeming aloofness has none nothing to alleviate their concerns nor give the impression he is up to the task of running the day-to-day affairs of a country like Israel.

There is talk that Kachol Lavan’s relatively quiet campaign is simply due to voter fatigue and the summer holiday. Presumably in the next couple of weeks, as Israelis trickle back into the country from their vacations abroad, there will be a sharp increase in campaign activity that will assuage some concerns about Gantz’s inactivity. That may be true, but the decision to forego a major attack on Netanyahu at the height of his weakness and when his lack of scruples is nakedly evident reflects poorly on Gantz’s leadership abilities. By the time the campaign starts up in earnest, the news cycle will have moved on, and it will be too late to make hay of it. Benny Gantz’s commitment to civility is admirable, but in remaining quiet while the prime minister tramples over democratic norms and institutions, the Kachol Lavan leader’s reticence is deeply counterproductive.