Benny Gantz did the only sensible thing he could. The alternate prime minister, defense minister and Kahol Lavan party began to threaten Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with artillery rather more substantial than an angry frown. Yet even though Gantz got to the brink, he still managed to slip and fall.
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Beyond the fact that Kahol Lavan could yet stage a retreat before the Knesset dissolves (which will take time) – Gantz’s performance was disheartening, and will have little impact at best. It is unlikely to boost Kahol Lavan, whether in the cabinet if a compromise is reached, or in winning over voters if the Knesset does disband and new elections are called.
The clearest sign of Gantz’s incomprehension is his ostensibly statesmanlike rhetoric, which reflects a level of political sophistication on par with a student organization or town council. His lack of understanding is especially glaring given the person he’s dealing with: one of the most devious politicians in Israeli history.
Gantz began his address relatively strongly, accusing Netanyahu of lying. Then he descended into moldy clichés, such as, “Kahol Lavan’s ministers are standing like a fortified wall for the good of Israel.”
The first part – that Netanyahu is a liar – is a well-known fact. Not only doesn’t Netanyahu pay a price for it: it is actually one of the characteristics that his base admires the most. Of course Gantz needs to say it, because it’s the truth – but when Gantz “exposes” this banal fact, he can grimace to his heart’s content but he won’t sway a single Likudnik.
Gantz was speaking to his own base, or at least what was his base, which has heard much worse about Netanyahu. MK Ofer Shelah (Yesh Atid), for example, told Haaretz: “Netanyahu is morally rotten in a way that is difficult to describe.” Doesn’t this sound a bit more convincing?
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As for the second part, that bit about the “fortified wall” and the defense of Israel: This bizarre government’s not-very-long lifespan has quickly demonstrated just how disconnected the Kahol Lavan members are. Aside from a few specific efforts by Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn in his ministry, to head things off – or to be more precise, his very taking over of the job, physically, from Amir Ohana, Kahol Lavan has not really managed to change the direction of the Netanyahu’s pirate ship.
Netanyahu and his ministers have been enflaming the public against the legal system and casting aspersions against the law enforcement system without restraint. Do the public servants involved in bringing Netanyahu to justice feel any improvement at all in the poisonous atmosphere enveloping them?
As for the management of the coronavirus crisis – the official excuse for the formation of this unity government, this gargantuan cabinet has achieved nothing but chaos. The pride of both sides was the second lockdown, which just dealt the despondent Israelis another harsh blow.
Gantz’s actions in recent weeks prove that even if his nerves are being stretched, he will never cease to aim for compromise. Right now another election soon seems inescapable. But even if a tortured compromise is reached by next week, it wouldn’t be an early Hanukkah miracle. It’s not clear that there’s any point at all in continuing this limping circus.