Opinion

Netanyahu Is the Best There Is for Now. Gantz Must Join Him to Minimize Damage

A combination picture shows Benny Gantz, leader of Blue and White party, in Tel Aviv, Israel, November 23, 2019 and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Kiryat Malachi, Israel March 1, 2020.
AMIR COHEN/ REUTERS

Benny Gantz joining a government headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is not a disaster. In fact, it is the only possibility that is left, except for the continued deadlock that will lead to another round of elections. While those who can’t stand Netanyahu are once again beating their drums loudly against such a step, in reality only Kahol Lavan joining the government could put a halt to the dangers they are warning about.

If such a serious danger to democracy is lying in wait, even possibly to the country – as they are warning with such flowery pathos – then we certainly need to put everything else aside and join the government to limit its damage.

The protests in black will not stop Netanyahu. But a Kahol Lavan justice minister just might. Unity governments are always a bad recipe, we must always come out against them – but not this time, when the only issue on the agenda is coronavirus, and no other. When there is no choice, there is no choice. Surrender, retreat and even breaking campaign promises are not always the worst options. Gantz now needs to brave enough to surrender.

Kahol Lavan can stick to the sole ideological principle it has, no to Netanyahu. It will draw sweeping applause from those wearing the black shirts and cries of support from those waving the same colored flags – and then what?

A deadlock, whose damages are piling up. It is worth remembering: Gantz has no option of forming a government in which he would be prime minister, the fault of the representatives on the right in his own party, who prefer nationalism to toppling Netanyahu. The price: The continuation of a Netanyahu-led government.

One can also assume that the common public sentiment right now is that this time of fear is not the time to replace the government, is understood by Kahol Lavan too. Netanyahu is seen as someone who is handling the crisis well, and this is hard to contradict. Only when the thick gathering clouds disperse will it be possible to judge his actions in the face of the coronavirus. In the meantime, the trust of a large part of the public in him is a major asset in times of crisis. The conclusion: Netanyahu continuing to serve as prime minister until the end of the crisis is not a disaster.

The warnings about the end of democracy, the destruction of Israel and the end of the world, the slogans of those wearing black, can wait a bit. Those who for decades lived in peace with the tyrannical Shin Bet security service in the territories and the military dictatorship in their back yard, have no real moral right to protest now against a week-long surveillance of carriers of a contagious virus.

But they too must support joining what they view as a government of destruction: If the danger of such a government is so serious, and there is no chance to bring it down, only joining it can stop the disaster.

Ministers from Kahol Lavan could very well be the only obstacle preventing harm to the institutions of the regime. Even a split up of Kahol Lavan over it joining the government would not be a great disaster: The party has never been a serious promise of anything else, with or without Yair Lapid and Moshe Ya’alon in its ranks. Those who looked to the slate of retired generals as a promise of change, for more peace, justice and equality – were lying to themselves.

A fear has descended on Israel, and it seems it will not pass quickly. The only issue that now occupies Israelis is the plague. Reality is changing before their eyes at a dizzying pace, what we did a week ago is no longer possible, it seems what we are doing today will be impossible tomorrow and the only stable thing left in our lives is Moshe Bar Siman Tov and Benjamin Netanyahu every night on television.

It is unlikely that Israelis would now want to see either of them replaced. Does anyone really know with any certainty that Gantz will manage this crisis any better? Would Lapid standing in the town square and conducting a choir singing “We Love Israel” with dry throats make the danger of COVID-19 go away?

These are tense times. Netanyahu is the best there is for now, with the emphasis on “there is” and “for now.” Gantz must join him, especially to limit the damage. We will meet right after the plague, and then maybe we will replace the government and a new day will dawn for Israel.