A National Unity Government Is the Last Thing Israel Needs

A photo of Dr. Zvi Bar'el.
Zvi Bar'el
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Netanyahu attends a press conference in Jerusalem on March 7, 2020.
A photo of Dr. Zvi Bar'el.
Zvi Bar'el

A national unity government is the last thing Israel needs. After the government circumvented the Knesset to authorize the Shin Bet security service to find out where each of us has been and how he spends his time while separated from the rest of the population; after the justice minister, with a wave of his hand, froze the legal system; and when the finance minister is rubbing Aladdin’s lamp to produce ingots of gold to encourage the economy, without explaining where the money will come from, what’s left for a unity government to do, other than nullify all criticism, oversight or differences of opinion?

After all, these draconian decrees have all already been imposed by a caretaker government, which in normal times wouldn’t have the constitutional authority to dictate the public’s way of life in such a crude, invasive manner.

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Nevertheless, the public is disciplined and obedient. That isn’t because it believes its leaders – whom at least half the nation loathes – suddenly know what they’re doing, nor is it because it has decided to grant them legitimacy even though the election showed that the majority doesn’t trust the outgoing government.

Ordinary people, with their (as yet) healthy senses, know what needs to be done even without a criminal defendant whose trial has been postponed standing in front of them every evening and explaining how to use a tissue or threatening a major disaster. Their leaders today are Prof. Itamar Grotto, Health Ministry Director General Moshe Bar Siman Tov, Finance Ministry Director General Shai Babad and the media’s health correspondents.

There’s nothing this unelected caretaker government has wanted to do that it wasn’t able to do because of the lack of a national unity government. A national consensus that we need to fight the coronavirus and keep others at a safe distance of two arms’ lengths already exists. Not because Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu so ordered, but due to fear and survival instinct.

A unity government would only grant the current government’s budgetary and intelligence rampage the seal of “national consensus.” We already have more than enough of this serum. The political disaster inherent in a unity government, which has already been dubbed an “emergency government,” is that it would rob us of any chance to get rid of the criminal who is ruling us without let or hindrance.

True, a minority government headed by Benny Gantz doesn’t have any solution to the coronavirus in its pocket. It won’t speed up the pace of coronavirus lab tests or make it safe for people to come into closer contact. It also probably won’t scrap the terrifying tracking of Israeli citizens.

But it will liberate us from the troubling feeling that all the decisions the caretaker government has made, even if they were wise, effective and correct, weren’t really meant to win the battle against the coronavirus, but to perpetuate Netanyahu’s reign and block the road leading from the prime minister’s residence to the courtroom.

At a time when ordinary Israelis have no means left of supervising Netanyahu’s decisions and ensuring that they’re based on authoritative information, when their livelihoods are in danger and their health depends mainly on their relations with their fellow citizens, faith in the decision makers plays a decisive role, and that faith is currently lacking. But even more important is the understanding that a unity government headed by Netanyahu would cause Gantz’s Kahol Lavan party to fall apart and to lose its position as an alternative to the defendant’s rule.

The coronavirus, they promise us, will someday disappear. Maybe the summer heat will destroy it, or maybe a vaccine will be found to save us. But then, the issue of democracy and the nature of Israel’s system of government will shine forth in all its sick glory.

Is it possible to believe that Netanyahu will turn back the clock, restart the judicial system, stop the location tracking, destroy information gathered about Israelis that is worth its weight in gold, stop the incitement and division? After all, he’ll still be a criminal defendant fighting for his freedom.

And where will we find an alternative leader then? Will he wait quietly for his turn in the rotation government? Will someone who was willing to grant a stamp of legitimacy to Netanyahu once again seek the public’s support to oust his erstwhile partner?

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