Gantz Can Still Save Israel From Netanyahu

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Defense Minister and Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Home Front Command Headquarters in Ramle, September 7, 2020.
Defense Minister and Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Home Front Command Headquarters in Ramle, September 7, 2020.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

Benny Gantz is considering establishing a commission of inquiry at his Defense Ministry to review Israel’s purchase of submarines and missile ships, the headline shouted. Gantz, who since time immemorial has agreed that the so-called submarine affair reeks of misconduct by all parties involved, has been weighing his move for a long time. Now he’s using it more as a political whip for whacking Benjamin Netanyahu than as a specific measure to validate his suspicions.

How do we know this? About four and a half months ago, Gantz told the Ynet website that he accepted, for the sake of preserving the coalition government, Attorney General Avichai’s Mendelblit decision not to investigate the prime minister in connection with the submarine affair. In other words, Gantz is fed up and wants to show that he’s capable of being ticked off.

The thing is, Gantz has been fed up for a long time, and nothing has happened. No one is buying his threats and ultimatums, including his partners in his Kahol Lavan party, because he doesn’t follow through. His standard political strategy is hesitation or, to be precise, hesitation and denunciation.

He denounces the Netanyahu supporters who shouted ugly insults outside the home of the prime minister's neighbors in Caesarea whose military-pilot son died in a helicopter crash in 2006. And he denounces Sadi Ben Shitrit, an activist who compared Netanyahu to Hitler.

All talk and no action. It’s odd that he hasn’t yet learned: When you’re facing a political gorilla the size of Netanyahu, you don’t have the privilege of acting like a ballerina who, having forgotten the choreography, performs a few generic steps. In the Netanyahu era, such behavior constitutes disengagement bordering on the bizarre.

It’s the same regarding the failure to pass a state budget. Kahol Lavan says that all the party’s lawmakers – with the exception of people like Miki Haimovich, who are stomping their feet over the issue, and Omer Yankelevich, who supports the government at any price – agree that if a 2021 budget isn’t passed, the current government will give up the ghost in December or January.

But in light of Gantz’s behavior, it’s not preposterous to think this unanimity could crack before some devious compromise can be reached. Netanyahu will swear that any minute now there will be a budget, and Gantz might take the bait. Kahol Lavan’s poor showing in the polls will help him come up with a story he can tell himself.

His party’s legislators and cabinet members remain faithful to the narrative that they’re saving Israeli democracy and choosing the lesser of all possible evils. Amid the cabinet’s paralysis and the fact that an early election is only a matter of time – June, after coronavirus vaccines start kicking in, would be much better for Netanyahu than March, while the country is still deep in crisis – this narrative melts a little more every day.

Just as Gantz knows that Netanyahu won’t live up to their agreement to rotate the premiership, he knows he’s dead politically and his story of being a candidate for prime minister is over.

My heart goes out to Gantz, who went into politics filled with good intentions – and after the false belief that he would be the nation’s savior had been drilled into him. Instead of being grateful to Gantz for saving him during his most politically vulnerable moments, Netanyahu, as usual, bites not only the hand that feeds him but the whole body in a cannibalistic frenzy.

Gantz must decide how he wants the end of his political career to be remembered: as someone who hung on to the illusion of power for a few more months and put out some small fires, or as someone who put the submarine affair on the agenda and broke the rules of the game over the budget.

The dilemma is cruel and depressing. How can he survive this political suicide mission? By searching for a little more oxygen on all fours, or standing straight, head held high?

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