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Gantz, Do You Work for Netanyahu?

Nehemia Shtrasler
Nehemia Shtrasler
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks with Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz during the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, June 7, 2020
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks with Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz during the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, June 7, 2020Credit: POOL New/Reuters
Nehemia Shtrasler
Nehemia Shtrasler

Reuven Rivlin, our honorable president, is considered a nice and honest guy. At the end of 2000, the Haredi parties proposed a bill to raise child benefits to insane levels of 850 shekels ($265) per child from the fifth child. Likud, which was then in the opposition, said it would support the bill, even though this law would be a bad and discriminatory law. Their underlying intention was to topple the government of Ehud Barak.

I came to the Knesset for a meeting with then-lawmaker Rivlin. I asked him: “How is it that you, a dyed-in-the-wool Zionist, are willing to support a bad law that encourages the enlargement of Haredi and Bedouin families, communities that are patently non-Zionist?” Rivlin looked at me with pity and replied unblinkingly: “It’s true that this is a bad law, but without the Haredim we can’t rule, and I want to rule.”

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And indeed, sometimes you have to sacrifice a rook in order to save a king. In politics, you sometimes have to swallow a big frog to attain power and carry out your plans. This is something Benny Gantz doesn’t understand. Maybe he will when he fails to cross the electoral threshold.

When “Herod” (a.k.a as Finance Minister Katz) asked Gantz to support a 90-billion-shekel increase of the 2021 budget, he didn’t for a minute think that Gantz would agree. After all, the government had already fallen and Gantz had become a rival. In the opposite situation, Netanyahu and Katz would have split their slides laughing at such a request. They would have made Gantz sweat over where to make cruel budget cuts so that the public would turn against him come Election Day. They wouldn’t dream of giving him 90 billion shekels to be used for election bribery.

But the softie agreed. He is a good guy in the bad sense of the word. Everyone slaps him around, runs circles around him, tricks him, but he won’t fight back. He’s not built for power struggles. He simply isn’t suited to politics. He’s more suited to be Mother Teresa’s helper.

I heard his speech this week. He called Netanyahu a “villain who chose a path of lies and violation of agreements.” Wonderful. He even said that he would run in the upcoming election to “free Israel from Netanyahu’s talons.” So, does this “liberation” include allowing the villain to distribute election bribes to the tune of billions of shekels?

If Gantz had one quarter of a spine he would make “Herod” slash the budgets of all the ministries, so that over the next three months there would not be enough money to pay people on leave, for unemployment benefits, for disability benefits, for school and childcare operations, for the elderly or for medicine. This would be an American-style government shutdown. Over there, when this happens there even isn’t enough money for toilet paper on Capitol Hill.

Everyone would then blame, and justifiably so, Netanyahu and Katz for not passing the 2021 budget (in August!), as stipulated in the coalition agreement. The cries of the unemployed, the small business owners, the disabled and the elderly would rise to the heavens, and they would stage massive demonstrations in central Tel Aviv. This would then find expression at the voting booths.

But instead of a shutdown, the arch-villain and his lackey Herod can distribute billions as election bribery. This week, for example, Herod bestowed the Haredim, the settlers and the state-religious schools with a bonus worth hundreds of millions, despite the objections of the Ministry of Finance’s legal adviser Asi Messing.

Herod also announced that the health basket would be increased despite opposition by the head of his ministry’s budget division, Yogev Gradus. Herod also announced a transfer of funds to local authorities, recently, including 200 million shekels to Ashkelon, as well as grants to businessmpeople and an extension of unemployment benefits.

He also promised large amounts to communities along the Gaza border, to the Druze community, to disabled IDF dveterans, to people who came from Ethiopia, to the Bedouins, to students and merchants in the Mahane Yehuda open air market. He made a deal with Yaakov Litzman about subsided housing for the ultra-Orthodox, also raising the wages of low-level college lecturers. And all this is due to the softie. Hey, maybe Gantz is an undercover agent, installed by Herod and the scoundrel?

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