Opinion

Benny Gantz Is Either Cowardly or Immoral

Gantz has the image of a brave and principled man, an officer and a gentleman. But if he knows what should be done about the occupation and doesn't say it, he's a coward

Benny Gantz, one of the leaders of the Kahol Lavan political alliance, attends a convention in the northern coastal city of Haifa on March 17, 2019.
AFP

Let’s make it simple: Benny Gantz is either a coward or an immoral person. There’s no third option. These are the only possibilities, in light of his refusal to state clearly his preferred solution for the Palestinian issue and his unbelievable refusal to discuss the occupation. It’s hard to say which option is more disheartening.

But don’t try to tell us this is an electioneering tactic, whereby the candidate must say nothing and do whatever it takes to win. A person who says nothing about the issue with the most import for Israel’s future doesn’t deserve to be prime minister. If he’s silent and avoiding the issue now, he’ll find many excuses to be silent and do nothing later on as well. Now it’s the election, later it will be the coalition. We’ve had our fill of evaders and cowards. Once a coward, always a coward; once a reprobate, always a reprobate.

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Contrary to Yair Lapid, who has no idea what goes on in the territories and doesn’t care, Gantz knows very well and perhaps he doesn’t care either. He knows what’s going on in Gaza and what the Jenin refugee camp looks like. He knows their residents from interrogation rooms and his binoculars, from arrests and assassinations, from Operation Pillar of Defense or Operation Protective Edge. If he’s a man of principle — and that is his image — then it can be assumed that he sees them as human beings. Although he devoted most of his career to killing, arresting, jailing, abusing, shelling or bombing them — that was Gantz’s job, let’s be clear — we can give him some credit and assume he was occasionally affected by what he saw. We can also venture a guess and say that, unlike most Israelis, he recognizes that this abusive situation cannot go on forever, neither in the Gaza Strip nor the West Bank. True, Israelis don’t care and Benjamin Netanyahu believes that it’s the solution, but Gantz says he’s here to change things.

But Gantz says nothing. He promises free preschool to age 3. He can promise preschool through 30, that doesn’t take courage. But it does take courage to say what should be done about the occupation. Gantz has the image of a brave, principled man, an officer and a gentleman. At least one of these characteristics is false. If he knows what should be done but doesn’t say it, then he’s a coward. Perhaps he’s a hero when it comes to street urchins in Gaza, but he has no civilian courage. None. It’s easy to raid a home in Jalazun, handcuff its residents and cart one off to jail. It took little courage to murder Khalil al Wazir (Abu Jihad) in his bed in Tunis, before his wife and children, as Moshe Ya’alon takes pride in having done. Compare that to the courage it takes to admit the truth: that such operations are crimes. That the occupation is a crime, that we have no right. That we cannot use force forever. They know this, the generals, and they are silent. They haven’t the single gram of courage it would take for them to tell the truth.

But if Gantz really thinks that the blockade of the Gaza Strip and the tyranny in the West Bank can continue until Israel finds its sweet spot, then he is a person without any moral fiber. If he doesn’t understand that this is apartheid, then either he doesn’t care that it’s apartheid or he is no less corrupt than the bribery suspect living in the prime minister’s residence on Balfour Street in Jerusalem. It’s not enough to declaim, “We must find a way not to rule over other people.” Shimon Peres recited that same sentence 40 years ago, and nothing ever changed. Israel still hasn’t managed to end its rule, after so wanting too, poor thing.

And perhaps that’s exactly the secret of Gantz’s charm, that he reflects what his voters seek. They want to be enlightened but still occupiers, in effect they are immoral cowards. Gantz and his voters are the nice Land of Israel of yore, which Likud stole out from under them, who miss Yitzhak Rabin. They dream and they fight, shoot and weep, they’re immoral cowards —vote for Gantz.