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Gantz Is Human. Israel Desperately Needs Him

Carolina Landsmann
Carolina Landsmann
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Benny Gantz and Moshe Ya'alon near the Gaza border, August 2019.
Benny Gantz and Moshe Ya'alon near the Gaza border, August 2019.Credit: Eliahu Hershkovitz
Carolina Landsmann
Carolina Landsmann

In an unforgettable scene in “The Matrix,” when Agent Smith is torturing Morpheus to get him to reveal the location of the last human city so that he can destroy it, Agent Smith admits his hatred of the human world. “I hate this place, this zoo, this prison, this reality, whatever you want to call it,” he says. And then he focuses his hatred on one characteristic of humans that he cannot stand: “It’s the smell.” The smell that emanates from real people drives the agent insane. “I can taste… your stink,” he complains. “And every time I do, I fear that I have somehow been infected by it. It’s repulsive.” (Latest election polls – click here)

I was reminded of this scene this week, when I tried to give my impression of a well-attended meeting with Kahol Lavan head Benny Gantz. If I had to come up with a headline that captures my impression of the opposition’s candidate for prime minister, it would be this: Benny Gantz is a human. Not like a mensch, not as a synonym for a person with a good heart, but rather, simply, a person who has a heart. A human being. Benny Gantz is a human being. Some will ask, rightfully so, if this is enough to be prime minster. Aren’t we all humans?

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The fact that Benny Gantz is human contrasts with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who I see as more like Agent Smith. When I studied Gantz while he was speaking, I discovered that the sun’s rays left a mark on his skin. The temperature outside was evident on his face. His movements were imperfect; his attire was messy, like the average Israeli. When he sat, his wallet stuck out of his back pocket. I was almost tempted to warn him lest he be pickpocketed.

Gantz is Israeli. Not in the heroic way, but rather in the banal sense. He reminded me of how Israeli grown-ups were when I was young. He doesn’t know how to dress. He has the humor of a high school student, it’s evident that he is not worldly. He is superficial, narrow-minded, his Hebrew is imperfect (for instance, he used the wrong word while trying quoting a Talmudic phrase) and we’ve seen him speak English at AIPAC.

Yet, as weird as it may sound, Israel desperately needs this superficiality because Israelis – and the entire Jewish people to boot – are drowning in the historic depths of Netanyahu. Gantz is not the shark that Israelis long for. He is a Styrofoam floatation device. But what does a shark help a nation drowning in a sea of significance?

The “last human city” that Morpheus is bound to defend is called – wonder of wonders – Zion. No, I didn’t get the impression that Gantz is “The One” like Neo, and maybe not even Morpheus. I don’t think Gantz is here to go it alone. He is a team player. He has endless problems. We know all this. Gantz has nothing of what Netanyahu has. Thus, anyone who associated Netanyahu with leadership as if they were synonyms can’t help but think that Gantz doesn’t have it.

Gantz is a candidate for prime minister only for someone who gives up on using Netanyahu as a standard. It is certainly no easy task after so many years of living and breathing Netanyahu. Gantz is a relevant candidate only for someone who see a chess game between a computer and a human being and wants the human being to win. Gantz is a relevant candidate only for someone who loves the smell of a human.

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