Analysis |

Under Coronavirus Emergency, Gantz Surrenders Unconditionally to Netanyahu’s Continued Rule

As Kahol Lavan leader fantasized about a rotation for PM that will never happen, Netanyahu plans to convince the attorney general that the coronavirus crisis requires canceling his corruption trial

Aluf Benn
Aluf Benn
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Gantz prior to making a press statement in Jerusalem, March 7, 2020.
Gantz prior to making a press statement in Jerusalem, March 7, 2020.Credit: Ilan Assayag
Aluf Benn
Aluf Benn

The first to identify it was Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, who gave an interview on Monday and promised that an emergency government headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would be formed within 72 hours.

Erdan was totally accurate: When the promised time came, to the hour exactly, it turned out that Benny Gantz was willing to join a government led by Netanyahu. Not only ready, but hot and excited, even at the price of splitting up the political camp he founded and nurtured with great effort – leading it in three rounds of elections with the call to replace Netanyahu.

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In an interview with Danny Kushmaro on Channel 12 News, Gantz said all the clichés expected in such situations: The circumstances have changed, the nation is in a crisis, all options are on the table, we will not conduct negotiations in public. The translation: Unconditional surrender to Netanyahu’s continued rule, betrayal of everything Kahol Lavan has represented over the past year and implicit agreement to what the right-wing bloc headed by Netanyahu represents – the dismantlement of democracy in favor of Netanyahu’s eternal rule. From now on, the appropriate name for the political entity headed by Gantz is the White Flag Party.

One can assume that Gantz will ask for and receive some type of consolation prize. On Thursday, he hinted that he would demand the head of Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein as a scapegoat. Wow. Netanyahu will waste Edelstein without blinking an eye, and throw him as a small bone to Gantz.

There will also be promises and agreements “anchored in unprecedented legislation” for the rotation as prime minister between Netanyahu and Gantz after a year or two. So what. Gantz knows better than anyone that the chances of Netanyahu carrying out this rotation and handing over his rule is as likely as Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy joining the government. But who knows, maybe the coronavirus crisis will also bring them “out of the necessity of the circumstances” to stand alongside Netanyahu. And why should we be picky about Gantz? If we can fantasize about fairies and unicorns or to pray for the coming of the Messiah, it is permitted to fantasize about a rotation agreement with Netanyahu, too.

It was a swift victory, even for the political wizard Netanyahu. Only 17 days after the election, in which most of the public voted in favor of ending his rule, Netanyahu is now standing alone at the top of the hill, dancing on the dead political body of Kahol Lavan. The party of the alternative broke up at its first test.

The most absurd part is that President Reuven Rivlin has tasked Gantz with forming the next government, with the support of 61 lawmakers. And Gantz will form a government, but it will be headed by his rival Netanyahu, whom he has described to the public as corrupt and immoral. Even the cunning Netanyahu did not expect such perfect irony. It is truly beyond any imagination.

Only one problem remains: The trial of Netanyahu and his partners in crime, Arnon Mozes and Shaul Elovitch. The media and public opinion have forgotten about the story a bit, but it continues to occupy Netanyahu. We can assume he will launch a two-stage strategy. First, he will destroy the alternative to his rule by bringing Gantz into the government. Second, when the coronavirus crisis worsens and people may even be dying from it, he will twist Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit’s arm into postponing the proceedings in his trial. He will justify it by arguing that the public good requires Netanyahu to lead the country – look, even his rivals have agreed to join his government despite the three indictments against him.

Like Gantz, Mendelblit will explain that circumstances have changed, and in the face of a massive threat to human life it is important that Netanyahu be at the national helm, not wasting time defending himself over charges of changing headlines on the Walla news website. Mozes and Elovitch will both ask to be left alone too, as justice requires, if the number 1 defendant is let off without blame.

Absurd? Delusional? Unimaginable? Exactly the way Gantz’s surrender looked ridiculous just two weeks ago, after his electoral achievement became clear. But what can you do, the circumstances are not what they were then, and they will continue to worsen and justify further damage to democracy and the rule of law.

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