Opinion

Benny Gantz Never Wanted to Lead, and That Makes All the Difference

Netanyahu's new junior partner, whom the center-left camp tried almost by force to dress in Yitzhak Rabin's bloodstained uniform, was staring down two awful possibilities

Benny Gantz gives a speech on March 22, 2020.
Tomer Appelbaum

Benny Gantz is a tragic figure. It might be a bit odd to say this about the quintessential sabra general, who according to colleagues in the army “always went up the escalator” instead of exerting himself in an exhausting climb up the mountain, but the truth is that the moment he hung up his uniform and became addicted to the expectations upon him, his life became a nightmare. In the past year and a half, Gantz found himself in a situation that isn’t suited to him and he just got deeper and deeper into trouble while absorbing unprecedented filth from Netanyahu’s propaganda. Now, when the whole world is in chaos, his time has come.

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Gantz, whom the center-left camp tried almost by force to dress in Yitzhak Rabin’s bloodstained uniform, never wanted to be No. 1. When he began to look into options in politics, he invited all kinds of operators and other political foxes in for consultations. He told them, among other things, his thoughts about wanting to be minister of education.

“The moment he began to talk, I realized that he didn’t want it and wasn’t suited to it,” said one of the more senior figures who was called in. A senior player in the leftist camp, a sure and vociferous opponent of Netanyahu, once told me that with Gantz’s lack of energy, it was already better to sit with Netanyahu. This is the man, and anyone who expected anything different from him has mainly himself or herself to blame for having chosen not to face reality.

The first and most fundamental condition for being No. 1 is wanting to be No. 1. Yair Lapid, for example, is someone who wants that. This is the basis on which he industriously and with iron discipline established a well-ordered movement with an effective mechanism that sees him as a supreme leader. Multiply that by 100 and you get Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu invented the verb “to want.” Gantz simply doesn’t want. And that is mainly the story.

In the coming days Gantz can expect to be subjected to terrible attacks from the direction of the camp that voted for him in the name of the war against Netanyahu. These days are far crazier than the sickly routine that has existed here anyway ever since the advent of the criminal cases against Netanyahu, his war on the rule of law and the repeated elections. A paralyzing, frightening virus on the one hand, constitutional chaos on the other and huge enmity between the two camps, hovering over the abyss.

Despite the raging fury of those who are feeling betrayed, it is nevertheless worth looking at things the way they are. Gantz was facing only awful possibilities: He could continue to shamble on to another election on the wings of an alarming, unexpected health, economic and social crisis; or he could establish a minority government that would suffer from wild delegitimization and bear the social and economic repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic; or he could go with the option he ultimately chose – splitting up Kahol Lavan and giving Netanyahu his backing in an emergency government. He chose that option, which destines him to a fate like that of Shaul Mofaz, another former chief of staff who flopped in politics.

Apart from personal redemption from the nightmare into which he was dragged, it must be hoped that this will bring additional, better results. For example, blocking the road that Netanyahu has paved to the ruin of the legal system because he believes it is harassing him. In light of the wily sophistication of those who are facing Gantz and Gabi Ashkenazi – not only Netanyahu but also people like Yariv Levin – it is possible to be skeptical about their chances of success.

And perhaps in this suicidal act, Gantz will at long last pose a real opposition to Netanyahu and the rule of the right. An opposition that assembles not only on the basis of the strong emotions Netanyahu elicits, and not even on the basis of a commitment to rectify what is amiss (it’s a bit ironic to report for the battle for civic integrity at the side of Avigdor Lieberman), but rather on the basis of some sort of ideology.

An opposition in which the Joint List, the representative of the Arab public in Israel, is a prominent and leading member and not just a cheap mistress called upon to vote this once and nothing more. It is, after all, possible to try to work up a bit of hope in these difficult times.