Give Gantz a Chance. He Might Just Be Our Hope for the Future

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Kahol Lavan leader Benny Gantz, Jerusalem, May 17, 2020
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Kahol Lavan leader Benny Gantz, Jerusalem, May 17, 2020Credit: Knesset Spokesperson's Office/ Reuters
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

You have to give Benny Gantz a chance. He deserves it, now more than ever. Over the past several weeks, Gantz has proven that he has at least one important leadership trait that’s rare in Israel: The courage to go against the flow and to do the unexpected; a readiness to pay a personal price for something he believes in and the ability to ignore the background noise, shrill and offensive as it may be, including that coming from his own camp. A leader may have been born during his interview with Ilana Dayan on Tuesday. It seemed as if this time he hadn’t consulted media advisers and strategy charlatans and wasn’t reciting from a page of talking points prepared in advance. Maybe that’s why it was his best interview ever.

I didn’t vote for him and almost certainly never will. Gantz was and remains a retired army officer with a lot of unnecessary blood on his hands, an old-school security-firster of the type we should have been done with long ago. As such, he measures everything in terms of “threats of annihilation” and “security borders” – all that Israeli foolishness – and his world of imagery ranges from “duty cadet” to “cockpit,” one more childish than the next.

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Even in such a comprehensive interview the interviewer didn’t bother to ask a single question about annexation or about his solution for the occupation; the “Uvda” show doesn’t have time for such trivialities, and Gantz saw no need to be forthcoming. But he came across as a truthful person, which isn’t common among Israeli politicians. Can we believe any of them anymore? We can believe Gantz. He really thinks that he made the best choice of the bad choices that were available to him. And he didn’t do it for the perks or the power games. He truly believes that he was contributing to his country, in particular by rescuing it from the rule of Benjamin Netanyahu.

The center camp’s “traitor,” who has had every type of insult thrown at him since he decided to join the government, was persuasive about his motives and the wisdom of his moves. He could have easily remained in the opposition and been dragged into another election campaign, the only option remaining other than joining the government. He would then have been carried on his camp’s shoulders but would have given Netanyahu another great victory. And so he chose what he saw as the lesser evil for the country, even though it was the worst possible choice for him personally, at least as of now.

Overnight the blue-eyed chief of general staff, the great white hope, the friend of Yair Lapid from the basement in Ramat Aviv Gimmel and Moshe Ya’alon’s good buddy of the slaps on the back and macho hugs, had become the enemy of the people. But he chose correctly. He’s paying for it now, but it may yet be worth it. Meanwhile it seems as if the only way to replace Netanyahu is the way that Gantz chose.

We also have to look around at our political landscape – a desert wasteland and a wilderness of despair. An opposition whose components, except for the Joint List, are even worse than Netanyahu: Avigdor Lieberman is more corrupt, Yamina is more extreme, and Lapid is ridiculous, as always. Given this, with no other promise in the offing, the “alternative prime minister,” looks like the hope of the future.

Perhaps Netanyahu will end up crushing him, too, but perhaps he will manage to overcome him and succeed him. One can hurl endless accusations at him, about not keeping his word, about the bloated government, about folding and surrendering, but once everyone stops foaming at the mouth, one must still ask: What was the alternative? Half the cabinet is Gantz’s; most of them are indeed hollow figures but all are preferable to the elves and inciters of the right. This was the best choice.

One must admire his courage at bucking the trend. The spirit prevailing in Israel today is a bad spirit, and Gantz’s test will be if he will continue to go against the grain in other areas as well, because then we’ll really know that a leader has been born. Not Nelson Mandela, maybe, but perhaps some kind of F.W. de Klerk. Not David Ben-Gurion, of course, but perhaps a small version of Yitzhak Rabin.

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