The New Israeli Government of the Walking Dead

Ravit Hecht
Ravit Hecht
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An Israeli man wears a mask depicting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a demonstration outside the Knesset, May 14, 2020
An Israeli man wears a mask depicting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a demonstration outside the Knesset, May 14, 2020Credit: Sebastian Scheiner,AP
Ravit Hecht
Ravit Hecht

A unity government that includes a painful compromise – legitimizing Benjamin Netanyahu as premier – was the only option, given the situation that had developed. But it was implemented in such a crooked, foul way that not only is it very hard to defend, it’s very hard to see anything good in it at all.

The coalition agreement is nothing but an insurance policy for both sides. It includes a wealth of contortions and distortions of a kind redolent of a lack of integrity and basic trust. The most important ministries in dealing with the coronavirus – the supposed purpose for which this government was established – haven’t been given to people capable of rebuilding from the ruins or of dealing with a second wave.

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How 'God-gate' rocked the settlers’ faith in their evangelical alliesCredit: Haaretz

The legislative branch continues to be trampled, which is why people who have sprung up from nowhere are suddenly unwilling to be mere Knesset members, but instead demand to be ministers. And the judiciary is under a dangerous, violent assault.

Netanyahu should have paid with his job not only for the criminal cases against him, but for his sins against Israeli society, first and foremost his forcible and painful dismantling of it. A minister who served in one of his governments once said that when Netanyahu sees two people walking hand in hand, the first thing he does is get between them and try to break them up. This work of dismantling, at which he is so adept, is evident even now, as he forms his fifth government.

People close to Kahol Lavan chairman Benny Gantz said he suffered real agony during the process of allocating portfolios to his people. He acts completely differently from the political norm, they said; he has a heart.

It’s possible, as my colleague Carolina Landsmann has consistently argued, that by joining Netanyahu, Gantz is actually waging a highly sophisticated battle against the prime minister, and that the way to be saved from him and his poisonous influence is through a countervailing force. But 20-plus years of experience with Netanyahu, combined with the current political reality, rouse serious suspicions that we’re actually closer to another election, while the Netanyahu problem keeps getting worse and Gantz is terminally ill politically.

When you consider the other guests who have come to shelter under Netanyahu’s roof, it’s hard to avoid the feeling that they are people who have signed their own political death warrants.

Benny Gantz and Gaby Ashkenazi on election night, March 3, 2020.
Benny Gantz and Gaby Ashkenazi on election night, March 3, 2020.Credit: Moti Milrod

Various people say that Gabi Ashkenazi (Kahol Lavan) aspires to worm his way into Likud, but the truth is that over the course of three elections, he has acted like someone who hadn’t yet decided whether he really even wanted this headache. Being aloof isn’t the way to climb the political ladder.

Amir Peretz and Itzik Shmuli of the Labor Party lost their voters’ trust and respect, and aside from the hacks that surround them, it’s doubtful they have any hard-core supporters. Gesher leader Orli Levi-Abekasis, who started out with great momentum, has become a joke, and the reward she received for stealing votes is running a community center.

Yoaz Hendel and Zvi Hauser (formerly Kahol Lavan, now Derech Eretz), who came to build an ethical right as a contrast to Netanyahu, spat politely in their leaders’ faces and fought valiantly to receive state funding for their new party. If they ever run for election independently, it’s unlikely they would win the votes of anyone but their own families.

Rabbi Rafi Peretz (Habayit Hayehudi) was esteemed by the religious Zionist community as an educator and public figure, but he destroyed this esteem the moment he entered politics.

What all these people have in common is a lack of confidence in their own political futures, which spurred them to take what they could now. It’s a coalition of the walking dead.

The opposition, which is made up of countless factions, seems to be in terrible shape, and some of its members are still licking the wounds of a fresh failure. But Naftali Bennett (Yamina), Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid), Ayman Odeh (Joint List) and even Avigdor Lieberman (Yisrael Beiteinu) have demonstrated confidence in their political right to exist, and as evidence, each of them has far-reaching plans for himself. What unites them despite everything, it seems, is their survival instinct.