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Gantz Made the Right and Brave Choice, the Lesser Evil

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
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Benny Gantz in the Knesset, March 2020.
Benny Gantz in the Knesset, March 2020.Credit: Gideon Sharon / Knesset
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

This week, what is apparently the most reasonable government for Israel will be formed, within the boundaries of the possible. Of the two possibilities before him – a continuation of the deadlock and another election, or joining a Netanyahu government – MK Benny Gantz made the right and the brave choice, the lesser evil.

The dream government of Jews and Arabs, or just a center-left government, was not possible. Continued clashes with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would lead to no better a place. The removal of a few right-wing ministers from their key posts, and the appointment of a few more reasonable center-right ministers, is the most that can be expected now. Any other alternative would be worse.

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Set aside the noisy criticism about betrayal, surrender and the end of the world – if the end of the world is coming, it’s because of the coronavirus, not the coalition. The coronavirus needs a functioning government now, not political intrigues, fiery speeches or protests in black. Their time will come.

Now, it’s “quiet, they’re sick” time. Its predecessor,“quiet, they’re shooting” was nauseating. When Israel shoots, one should not be silent even for a moment, so as to stop the shooting. But when Israel, together with the whole world, is fighting a terrible pandemic, about which what we don’t know outdistances what we do know, everything else must be set aside until the fury passes.

The Netanyahu government may not be managing this well enough; it certainly could be done better, but it’s doubtful that Gantz, or anyone else, could do any better. Gantz has realized this.

His political partners are blowing up at him for nothing. All the other issues − the corruption cases, democracy and the territories – have, in any case, been shunted aside. Now is the time of the epidemic, and nothing else.

Other than hatred for Netanyahu, there are few differences anyhow between Kahol Lavan and Likud. And so the heroic struggle of the principled ones against entering the government is no more noble than joining the government is. No one has presented a better scenario, other than continuing the protest convoys, driving to nowhere. Protesting feels very good, but this protest is empty: It’s only about one issue, one that’s not relevant right now.

The way the Joint List was betrayed is very painful, the way MK Avigdor Lieberman was betrayed is very pleasing. But Gantz’s breach of his election promise not to join a Netanyahu government is no breach: No one predicted the coronavirus.

Even if all the prophets of doom are right, and they probably are – Netanyahu won’t honor the rotation agreement; Netanyahu will crush Gantz; Netanyahu is on the way to the presidency – even then we must admit that the alternative is worse.

The truth is, nobody can think about political intrigues now. Not even about fighting for principles, which is nothing more than personal, primeval hatred, justified or exaggerated. This hatred must die down now. It has no place.

We are in a war unlike any ever before: the first-ever war of no choice in Israel’s history. It requires new rules. The not-Netanyahu camp is not prepared to recognize this. The center-left has finally found itself an issue to fight for, and it will fight against Netanyahu until its last drop of blood. The orders are not to utter even a hint of a good word about how Netanyahu is handling the situation.

No article I ever wrote against Zionism aroused fury like the one I published last Sunday, in which I wrote: “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.”

The gates of hell opened. Not over the occupation and its crimes, or the wars and the injustices – but over Netanyahu. Ofra Ben-Artzi, the prime minister’s leftist sister-in-law, wrote me: “Today you have been unmasked…you are a journalist serving as an agent. I can’t prove this. The onus is on the one who has secret, hidden obligations (in the form of income?). No less.

To she who exposes paid agents and to others, it must be reiterated: There’s a corona epidemic. We need a government. There is no government other than one headed by Netanyahu. It’s good that Gantz is joining it.

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