Gantz Has No Business Remaining Outside of the Government

Billboards for Netanyahu's Likud and Benny Gantz's Kahol Lavan, Tel Aviv, April 1, 2019.
Tomer Appelbaum

The chances of forming a national unity government are approaching zero, even though such a government does satisfy the will of the people – at least those who do not suffer from an excess of free time that allows them to write opinion pieces or wallow in Twitter wars.

There is good reason to assume that a unity government satisfies Netanyahu’s desires too: He knows his problematic coalition clients quite well (Avigdor Lieberman) and is preparing for U.S. President Donald Trump’s peace plan, which could squeeze out the wild extremists (Bezalel Smotrich) from his government.

>> Read more: This hot potato threatens Netanyahu's government even before it's formed | Explained ■ Unity government? No, thanks | Opinion ■ It all comes down to Lieberman | Opinion 

It also meets the desires of the leaders of Kahol Lavan, who know very well that they are not made of the necessary stuff to sit on the Knesset subcommittee for children’s rights. They have nothing to do in the opposition. If they are heading in that direction, then it would truly be better that they take advantage of the spare time and write a caustic opinion piece or brawl with Bibi supporters on Twitter.

Nevertheless, two things still need to happen for a unity government to arise: First, Lieberman must follow through on his threats over the new law on drafting the ultra-Orthodox. Second, the leaders of Kahol Lavan must be willing to lose face and violate their "promise to the voters" that they will not sit in a government with Netanyahu given the present situation – in other words, before an indictment is filed against him. This is the essence of the problem. Not the promise itself, of course; it is clear that a prime minister accused of crimes must be condemned, but the fact that the promise is not backed up by any other important principle.

Benny Gantz, leader of Kahol Lavan, at a campaign rally, Tel Aviv, February 28, 2019.
Tomer Appelbaum

The “anyone but Netanyahu” doctrine failed miserably in this election, as well as in the previous one. The left-wing camp is still in denial and unable to propose anything better: Not the construction of an alternative ideology, not a diplomatic timeline in the style of Ehud Barak’s promise to withdraw the Israeli army from southern Lebanon and not the establishment of a strategic alliance (“We will not sit with the Arabs!”).

These same leftists, whose foolishness inflated Kahol Lavan while destroying the parties that actually represent them, are now turning their enthusiasm toward the second stage of their failed actions. They are calling for this party – the very pronunciation of whose name borders on stupidity, as if it won’t be buried in shame at the intersection of “Kadima” and “The Third Way” streets – to remain outside the coalition.

Yes, those who failed in a big way in rebuilding the left and preventing the elimination of Israeli democracy, those who were enticed to vote for Moshe Ya’alon and Zvi Hauser just because of their obsessive disgust for Netanyahu, intend on looking longingly at the new opposition animals, Miki Haimovich and Yoaz Hendel, while Bezalel Smotrich turns the school system even more religious and Yariv Levin shatters the courts. Their main concern is not legitimizing Netanyahu.

What good will this do for them? Two minutes of feeling smug. When will they agree to be weaned off their mistake? It seems only when this new party is dismantled and dismembered by cunning and experienced Likud operatives. Then they will raise up another totem, even more right-wing than its predecessor, that will unite the Netanyahu haters – it doesn’t matter of what type or shape. I'll take this opportunity to propose Israel Harel, one of the founding fathers of the settlements, who every once in a while expresses reservations about Netanyahu in this newspaper.

Despite the noise Smotrich is making, a right-wing coalition government will not succeed – it is doubtful it will even try – to rescue Netanyahu from an indictment and standing trial. The legal process could very well take a long time. During this time there is a much more important issue than Netanyahu and his criminal affairs – though it doesn't minimize the disgust at his despicable and divisive actions.

The real burning issue is saving Israeli democracy from the dangerous clerical forces. Despite their relatively limited share of the population, they enjoy outsized power in a narrow, right-wing government.

At such a time, Kahol Lavan has no business remaining outside the government coalition.