Analysis |

After Netanyahu’s U-turn, Even His Party Isn't Sure Where He's Heading

Fraud and breach of trust are more than charges on Netanyhu's indictments, they're a way of life. But Benny Gantz and Kahol Lavan are none the wiser

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After 28 days, Knesset Speaker Benny Gantz’s mandate to form a new government comes to a fruitless end. The former general has not managed to form a coalition, under him, or under his rival, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The idea that Kahol Lavan and Likud would conduct business-like and good spirited negotiations, and would quickly form a government, was a fallacy, and hardly anyone thought differently. Now, people in both parties are finding it difficult to decipher where Netanyahu is heading: To a narrow government that will depend on the support of two or more deserters, a broader government under improved conditions — or a fourth election.

What he will refuse is more clear: A prime ministerial rotation that includes legislation intended to set in stone the date he will leave his post. Netanyahu’s overflowing basket of paranoias welcomed a new addition in the last few days. The indicted prime minister now fears the High Court of Justice will allow him to form a new government, and then pull a fast one on him, and rule him to be unfit to serve in the position immediately after the dual swearing-in of Netanyahu and Gantz as prime ministers. Gantz would then take over as prime minister for the remainder of their joint term.

To remind everyone, this section, a cornerstone of the agreement, was endorsed by all the parties. But in the previous round, it was purely theoretical; now, the wedding is becoming a real option, and the groom has seen the chuppa; he is getting cold feet. We should have seen it coming, after spending days in self-isolation in the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem, where the entire week feels like Shabbat and his son and wife never stopped fanning the flames of his fears.

The U-turn popped up at the end of the first day of Passover, adding to the pullback that occurred before the beginning of the holiday on the matter of the Judicial Appointments Committee. This is how, step by step, he trampled the core principles of the much anticipated marriage, three elections in the making, with a small and weak partner, who beat his swords into ploughshares too early.

President Reuven Rivlin, center, meeting at the President's Residence with Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and Benny Gantz on March 15, 2020.Credit: Kobi Gideon/GPO

It is unnecessary to remind Gantz and Gabi Ashkenazi of what tribal elders like Avigdor Lieberman, Dan Meridor, Ehud Barak and others told them: You should never buy a used car from Netanyahu. You should not even buy a brand new one, still wrapped up in plastic with zero miles on the odometer and the intoxicating smell of new leather upholstery. Fraud and breach of trust are not just what he is accused of; for Netanyahu they are a way of life.

The decision of President Reuven Rivlin not to agree to Gantz’s request for more time to form a government, and not to transfer this role to Netanyahu for his own 28-day period – was intended to reduce the suffering of the Jewish people a little bit, as comedians say. Gantz’s mandate to form a government is no longer relevant. He no longer has 61 MKs behind him – he is actually trying to form a government headed by someone else. And because Netanyahu does not have this magic number of lawmakers either, these honorable gentlemen should be so kind as to stop wasting our time and deceiving the public.

The “emergency” period was revealed to be just another one of Netanyahu’s excuses, so maybe it would be better for them to really see the clock ticking down to the next election – and reach a decision. It needs to happen within 21 days, the entire time the Knesset is allotted to put together a government coalition – or to dissolve itself on the way to an election. Only when the sword is up against their necks will we understand where we really are. Does Netanyahu want another election? Will he be coerced into joining a government with Gantz regardless? Or will he fulfill his true desire – to steal Knesset seats and form a narrow government, which he will present as the “national and Zionist” government of his dreams.

Gantz delivers a statement to the media in Ramat Gan, March 1, 2020. Credit: Ariel Schalit,AP

The request to give Netanyahu the task of forming the next government, sent to Rivlin by the heads of the right-wing and Haredi bloc is ridiculous. He can only count on the support of 59 lawmakers, and we saw what he did with 65 votes in April 2019, or 60 in September last year. Zilch and nothing. It was no less than fantastic to see the signature of the chairman of Yamina, Defense Minister Naftali Bennett, on the missive. In spite of all the humiliations Netanyahu has hit him with, you just have to whistle for him and he comes running. If progress is made on the unity front, we will hear him, and Ayelet Shaked too, howling like jackals in the night.

And one last word on Orli Levi-Abekasis, who was elected to the last Knesset on a joint run with Labor and Meretz. In a self-righteous post on social media on Saturday, she completed her personal act of fraud and breach of trust, and granted Netanyahu a large handful of Labor votes. Levi-Abekasis is the penny that doesn’t fill out Netanyahu’s dollar, and as long as that’s the case, any promise made to her is worth exactly as much as she promised her voters, just before she stole their votes.

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