The solution to the political crisis in Israel is blinding in its simplicity and internal logic. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz should sign another coalition agreement that freezes the current situation. The “unity” between Likud and Kahol Lavan will continue, but there will be no rotation for prime minister; each with retain their current positions until the end of this government’s term in 2023.
The budget will pass, the next bunch of senior appointments will be divided between the blocs, Naftali Bennett will remain in the opposition and the rest of the political parties will wallow in their disputes and be of no interest to anyone.
The reasons for such a “freeze plan” are almost self-evident. First of all, there is no ideological dispute between Likud and Kahol Lavan. Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn told Ravit Hecht and Hilo Glazer (Hebrew Haaretz, November 13) of his support for the nation-state law. Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi supported outgoing U.S. President Donald Trump’s “deal of the century,” and the agreements Netanyahu signed with the Gulf states and Sudan. All support Israel’s war of attrition against Iran and bombing deep in Syrian territory. And of course, all are in favor of eliminating the coronavirus and restoring economic growth.
Secondly, the election of Joe Biden to the U.S. presidency puts Netanyahu in a defensive position, in which he will require the shield of a “center-left” party. If there is a new election, he will get Bennett as a partner and leading ideologue in the next government, who will embarrass him daily with demands to annex parts of the West Bank, build settlements, bomb Gaza and so on, which will make problems for Netanyahu with the Americans.
With Gantz, Ashkenazi and Nissenkorn holding key positions, Netanyahu can rebuff any criticism from the right: They won’t let me annex, build or bomb; they’re lackeys of the Biden administration, etc. It will be the same on the domestic front, when Bennett and Ayelet Shaked try to harass Netanyahu with demands for “judicial reform” and destroying the High Court of Justice. It will be easier with Nissenkorn, who will scuttle any change to the judicial system in advance.
Third, Gantz is turning out to be the ideal partner for Netanyahu. After all, Gantz doesn’t have any real ambition to be prime minister, and it’s doubtful he ever did. If there are elections, he will evaporate. Even if his party gets a few seats, he will have to part with the Defense Ministry and his comfortable service in the Kirya with the officers and uniforms, the endless discussions and the black coffee. Ashkenazi and Nissenkorn won’t be in the foreign or justice ministries after the election. They know that, which is why they will continue to be Netanyahu’s loyal slaves for as long as the master pleases, even if every so often they make empty threats about dismantling the government as an expression of frustration over their servitude.
Fourth, Gantz, by entering the government, made his moral choice: to serve the regime of a man accused of bribery, fraud and breach of trust, by stealing the votes of Kahol Lavan voters and denying them what he had promised them during three election campaigns. Another small betrayal, in which he yields on the rotation of the premiership, won’t change anything about the public image of the “alternate prime minister.” Gantz will explain that “governmental stability” is crucial at this time, in the spirit of reconciliation and unity that Biden heralds, and one mustn’t tear the nation apart with another election.
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And if those in his party who are dissatisfied grumble and try to pull him out of the government, he will split off from them and remain with Netanyahu, just as Ehud Barak did when he split the Labor Party and formed the Atzma’ut faction a decade ago.
There is no more logical scenario for arranging the building blocks in today’s political environment. The worst government in Israel’s history will simply stay in place, wait for the coronavirus vaccines and closely follow the hearings in Jerusalem District Court that will decide Netanyahu’s fate.