Opinion

Benny Gantz Is Just Like Us, and That's Not Good Enough

Benny Gantz speaks at a Kahol Lavan party meeting, August 23, 2019.
Olivier Fitoussi

Carolina Landsmann describes Benny Gantz wonderfully on this page today, as does Iris Leal (in the Hebrew edition). They both saw a human being, which is rare, even sensational, in Israeli politics. I was not sitting where Landsmann was in Gantz’s meeting with Haaretz journalists, so I didn’t see the wallet peeking out of his back pocket. (For the latest election polls – click here)

But like both of them, I too saw a “human being” at that meeting, in the best sense of the word. Humble, genuine. Not puffed up with self-importance. Nice, decent, schlumpy. But that’s not enough. Far from it. The enthusiasm of non-right-wing Israelis for Gantz says more about them than it does about their candidate.

Gantz’s watch comes to life every few minutes with a blueish light. When it glows for a second, one can believe that its wearer is the best answer today to the critical problems of this country. But then it stops glowing, darkness falls and once again it becomes clear that it’s not enough to be “as good as it gets.” It’s not by chance that there isn’t another option, because Gantz is good for his voters. He’s just what they want, the imprint of his native landscape as they imagine it. He’ll promise them what they want above all: quiet. “Perfect silence, from the day I was born to the day I die,” as the late poet Yona Wallach put it.

>> Read more: Benny Gantz is human. Israel desperately needs him | Opinion

These Israelis want a respite from the noise Benjamin Netanyahu heaped on them. They want to go about their business, to send their children to oppress others, as long as they come home in one piece; to go on a cruise, to buy an SUV and feel good about themselves. Netanyahu has disrupted their quiet, Gantz will restore it. Netanyahu reminded them that something is rotten in our state, Gantz will lift the cloud. He won’t be a suspect and he won’t make historic speeches. What more could we ask? What more? Only the main thing, to make Israel a just country.

Gantz has no plans in that department. There’s no Palestinian partner, he stated mechanically at the protruding-wallet meeting, and moved on to the next subject. His party published “The five issues we will push from the moment we’re elected” — the most trivial, the margin of the margin. Term limits for the prime minister, civil marriage, the draft law — issues Kahol Lavan voters dream about, the issues that promise quiet and herald normalcy. The normalcy of our living in liberty and prosperity while a cruel tyranny exists just 30 minutes away. What could be more normal than that?

All we want is to feel righteous again, as we once were. Beautiful, as we once were. Without allegations of illicit deals by the prime minister with media moguls hanging over us, as if that and the other investigations are the heaviest moral cloud hanging over this place.

Gantz will give us life without the police major crimes division and then we can begin to feel the good old Israel again, which we miss so much, the one whose handsome son is Gantz the warrior, the schlumpy moshavnik. Last week he said that at the height of the 2014 Gaza war, which as army chief of staff he was in charge of, he saw to it that goods were delivered to the Strip, even as the mortar shells whistled over his head. Salt of the earth, he is.

It’s very tempting to fall for his charms. It’s very reassuring to think of having a “human being” for a leader. But Israel doesn’t need only a human being, it longs for a revolutionary who will shake it to its core. Man or machine, what difference does it make. Nice or disgusting, what does it matter. Anything short of chemotherapy will no longer help at all, save for the momentary good feeling of those who seek quiet. Gantz will once again permit Israel to enter permanent hibernation. He might also persuade the world that it’s “all for the best,” as the saying goes, when in fact it’s all for the worst.

It’s very pleasant to see someone like us leading us. A person whose wallet sticks out of his pocket, just like ours. But that’s precisely the problem: Someone like us will want, just like us, only quiet. And that’s only the best of the Israelis.