Opinion |

The End of Bennett-Lapid Government, Not the End of the World

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
Bennet, Lapid and Gantz at the Israeli parliament, Jerusalem, on February 28, 2022
Bennet, Lapid and Gantz at the Israeli parliament, Jerusalem, on February 28, 2022Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

The possibility that the Bennett-Lapid government will fall is not the end of the world. Don’t start with the sighs of despair, pathos and melodrama. This does not spell "the end of Israeli democracy," which may not have even existed to begin with; nor is it the end of the "change government," which implemented very few changes besides the establishment of a field hospital in Ukraine and lowering the excise tax on gasoline by half a shekel; nor is it the "return of the Devil," who has yet to return and was never really the Devil to begin with; nor does it mark the "destruction of the rule of law," which never existed in the first place.

Enough already of the cries for him to “Go!” He went, nothing changed, and therefore he may return. Once again, one right-wing government will be replaced with another, and the differences will remain as they were: minuscule.

Yes, it’s nicer without Miri Regev, and no one misses Shlomo Karhi either. Naftali Bennett tried his best, and he certainly was not the far right leader that he threatened to be, and perhaps there even was a more businesslike spirit in the corridors of government. Several ministers surpassed their predecessors in their comportment, and the levels of embarrassment and disgust declined, as did the crudeness and ignorance – without disappearing completely.

One thing that certainly did not disappear is the occupation, which neither the previous or current government showed any interest in. On this, they were incredibly similar. It took less than a year to make plain that on fateful issues, there is no real difference between right, center, and Zionist left.

Israel is the same country under Benjamin Netanyahu as it is under Bennett. And it would be the same under Yair Lapid: brutal and abusive in its backyard, while outwardly presenting itself as the only democracy in the Middle East, high-tech nation.

The next prime minister will likely be Netanyahu or Lapid. Nothing can convince me that the latter option is preferable. Why? How so? Netanyahu put together the Abraham Accords, which Bennett and Lapid reaped the fruits of and didn't mess up – though they did their absolute best to avoid the most important topic. Bennett and Benny Gantz did not take a lighter approach to the occupation; and Netanyahu also knew how to maintain relative restraint.

Blood was spilled to a similar degree, and settler violence, land seizure and daily abuses continued unabated. The most advanced electronic microscope couldn’t spot the differences. Gantz spoke with Mahmoud Abbas, and Lapid engaged in friendly banter with Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed on camera. So what? At the checkpoints, people carrying knives were still being shot dead, and in the fields, settlers attacked innocent farmers with unbelievable sadism and viciousness without being punished.

The scariest thing about the government’s possible fall is that the big protest movement could return. Please, not Balfour again. The last thing I want to see is a return of this loud and hollow protest that has nothing to offer aside from “anyone but X.” It’s tempting to say that the chance of Netanyahu’s return is only troubling because of the possible return of the anti-Bibi protest.

If the polls are correct in showing that he is the preferred candidate of most Israelis, and his party is the largest by a large margin, then his return would be justified. Whoever considers this a disaster must understand the real disaster – that Netanyahu's opposition was unable to present a formidable alternative to him or his ideology. Its few months in power proved that it has nothing else to offer.

All of this could have been different had the government quickly dedicated itself to at least one important objective and managed to bring about major change in that area. If they had done something to inspire hope for a different reality. If they had shown that they had something, anything, to offer.

The change that was and is necessary is big – but the change made was small, and therefore, it will fall over something just as small: Pitas in hospitals. Though unlikely, perhaps the government will manage to avert its fall – and if not, it won't be a massive disaster. Nor will it spell salvation, as the right believes. The change will amount to a mere footnote: Pretoria is changing its government.

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