If there’s anything that all Israelis want these days, it’s an agreement that will protect their future – their livelihoods, their jobs, the roofs over their heads, their living conditions. They want a guarantee that the economic-public health crisis won’t drag down their families or take anything away from them. In short, they would love precisely the terms Kahol Lavan Chairman Benny Gantz gave Benjamin Netanyahu in the coalition agreement signed Monday.
The details of the agreement between the prime minister and his future deputy are nauseating. While millions of Israelis are holed up in their homes, fearful for their health and for their livelihoods, what Netanyahu cares most about is securing his legal and economic situation, as well as his job for the coming years. And Gantz willingly gave into his every whim. Netanyahu, like a customer negotiating with an insurance agent, demanded progressively more coverage and protections, additional guarantees and assurances to ensure zero damage to his personal well-being.
The clause that illustrates this point most clearly is the one dealing with the deputy prime minister’s residence. It’s an arrangement for Netanyahu and his family, but Gantz, who promised that he will continue to live in his own home in Rosh Ha’ayin, had a hand in it. The clause’s wording is infuriating, reflecting the general tone of the agreement, which won’t take away any of the conditions Netanyahu enjoys as prime minister once he becomes deputy prime minister, according to the rotation agreement. It states the deputy prime minister will receive benefits “commensurate with his status, such as housing arrangements, office and any matter that derives from this, directly and indirectly.”
Some will say that it’s petty, that it’s chump change, that it’s not genuinely important. They’re wrong. The wording reflects the extent of the disconnect of Netanyahu and of Gantz, who look out for themselves alone at the height of a grave economic crisis that will extract a heavy price from Israelis. They saw not only to housing but also to enshrining Netanyahu as Likud leader; they specified that if he is prevented from serving as prime minister, no one in his own party can replace him.
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And since it’s obvious that this deal is a corrupt bargain, the only way to make it kosher is to hand out favors to all those who are needed to sanction it. That’s the origin story of the clause inflating the cabinet to a record 36 ministers and 16 deputy ministers, in addition to the so-called Norwegian Law that’s designed to pad out the state payroll with a few more positions. That’s the sum of Gantz and Netanyahu’s contribution to reducing unemployment – doling out jobs to friends in order to buy their silence and their loyalty in approving this perverted agreement.
On the legal side, Netanyahu extracted from Gantz the promise of his dreams: He’ll remain prime minister or deputy prime minister until a final judgment is rendered in his criminal case. Gantz not only broke his campaign promise that he would not serve in any government with Netanyahu, who has been charged with three corruption offenses, but he also helped to normalize corruption and to brutally trample on the Dery-Pinhasi precedent barring cabinet members from continuing to serve from the moment they are indicted.
Gantz and his legal advisers Yoram Turbowicz and Avi Licht – ostensibly the good guys – are partners to this egregious sabotage of the battle for good governance. They are signatories to this morally and ethically rotten agreement. As a result, there’s a feeling that the entire agreement is nothing but a giant setup, a dirty arrangement: residential arrangements and other favors for the prime ministers, work arrangements for politicians, legal arrangements for Netanyahu and power arrangements for advisers and cronies who sold their principles down the river for the benefit of narrow, alien interests. While we need an emergency or national unity government at this time, the fact that it is tainted by so many corrupt personal arrangements does not bode well for its future success.