The anti-Netanyahu Camp Needs a Netanyahu of Its Own

Ravit Hecht
Ravit Hecht
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Gantz and Yair Lapid at a Kahol Lavan party meeting in Jerusalem. February 7, 2020.
Gantz and Yair Lapid at a Kahol Lavan party meeting in Jerusalem. February 7, 2020.Credit: Emil Salman
Ravit Hecht
Ravit Hecht

Benny Gantz has been tagged as an enemy of the right-wing camp, which is dumping on him with a vengeance.

Words like “betrayal” and “theft,” that describe major criminal offenses, have been attached to a man without a single unscrupulous thought in his head. Then again, could that actually be what’s wrong with him?

Gantz made a mistake when, in the coronavirus panic, he rushed to answer Benjamin Netanyahu’s call to reach a deal for a coalition agreement with him before exhausting the leverage of his anti-Netanyahu bloc in the Knesset and the mandate to try to form the next government.

Gantz’s top partner in Kahol Lavan, Gabi Ashkenazi, also deserves some of the blame for this political amateurism. Nevertheless, the decision to enter the government was a very Gantzy thing to do. Gantz did not deceive anyone, least of all himself.

Beyond the suicidal wish to be done with the political nightmare that threw him into an alien mine field, Gantz is a pleasant, statesmanlike person who followed his conscience and did what he thought was best for the country. At this time of crisis, and after three election seasons in which he withstood masterfully a smear campaign of unprecedented ugliness, Gantz chose to avoid another confrontation or a power move such as the selection of an adversarial Knesset speaker or striking a courageous partnership with the Joint List. (Not that such a move would have helped, given the presence in Gantz’s Kahol Lavan of MKs Zvi Hauser and Yoaz Hendel.)

As a politician, Gantz deserves a gentleman’s C, not a big surprise considering that even his partners knew that he doesn’t have the lust to be No. 1, but as a human being he gets an A. Gantz is no criminal. At worst, he’s that clumsy cop who (once again) failed to catch the clever thief despite having been deputized by the neighborhood watch.

It’s not quite clear what Netanyahu will do with Gantz’s good intentions. The breakdown in the talks right before Passover over the composition of the Judicial Appointments Committee suggests, to borrow some themes from the holiday, that the clever but wicked prime minister will force the simple Gantz to eat more and more bitter herbs. The danger to the judicial system and the rule of law, for whose defense Gantz agreed to join the government and on whose behalf he destroyed his party, is still very present. Yariv Levin as the speaker of the Knesset is a very disturbing problem, and we haven’t even begun to talk about the annexation initiatives.

Even if a government is established, sooner or later Netanyahu will presumably call a fourth election, the coronavirus crisis permitting, after having crushed any chance of an alternative to his rule. He will try to pull off a win to give him additional political power in a bid to continue to delay his trial. So far it’s worked pretty well for him. Instead of being in the dock at the height of a trial, he is polling in record numbers. This man, who has no boundaries or inhibitions, manages to do whatever he wants, in defiance of logic and often of what is right. That is what drives the opposing camp crazy. The Netanyahu glitch just keeps going, they can’t stop it no matter how many instruments, generals and other individuals are thrown at it. Gantz is now a victim of that great frustration.

Despite their hatred of him and their rallying around his nemesis, Yair Lapid, and despite seeing him as an abomination, a symbol of everything in Israel that is corrupt and corrupting, in their heart of hearts the members of the “anti-Bibi” camp want a Bibi of their own. A twin, a clone, unrestrained and uninhibited, who’ll enter the ring and get down and dirty without being disgusted by the mud or by what he has become. A guy who would never be caught in the middle of a battle in a human moment of confusion, apprehension, showing any regrets or pangs of conscience. That man is not Gantz. In a different world, one less crazy, chaotic and violent, that would be a point in his favor.