Benny Gantz, You Owe the Israeli Public an Explanation

Haaretz Editorial
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A protester outside Benny Gantz's home in Rosh Ha'ayin, March 28, 2020. The sign features Gantz's quote that he would not serve in a government alongside an indicted prime minister.
Haaretz Editorial

Kahol Lavan chairman Benny Gantz used patriotic arguments to explain why he joined a right-wing government as the partner and designated successor of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whom he portrayed in the past as a corrupt dictator. “Israel’s citizens are more important than its leaders,” Gantz said with pathos.

If the citizens matter to Gantz, he must explain to them the coalition agreement he signed with Netanyahu. The agreement’s clauses, which on Thursday were incorporated into a proposed amendment to the Basic Law on the Knesset, don’t offer any answers on how to cope with the coronavirus and mitigate the economic crisis.

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They do, however, generate constitutional changes intended to infringe on democracy and bolster the leaders at the citizens’ expense – exactly the opposite of what Gantz had promised in the election campaign and the coalition negotiations.

Gantz, explain to us why you decided to shorten the Knesset’s term from four years to three, in complete contradiction to your desire for political stability. Why the parties agreed on an ongoing emergency situation, in which any legislation not concerning the coronavirus will be put off. Why the coalition has taken over all the Knesset committees, thus preventing government oversight and neutralizing the opposition.

How did you, as Knesset speaker, enable the crushing of the institution you head and turn it into a negligible department in the Prime Minister’s Office? Why did you agree to give Netanyahu de facto control of the justice system, where the corruption charges against him are being discussed? And how will the most bloated government in Israel’s history help the public in its acute distress?

In his speech this week, Gantz said that he spent dozens of hours in talks with Netanyahu. Did Netanyahu dictate to him in these talks his worldview, according to which any body or process that might restrain the government (such as the Knesset, the High Court of Justice, the State Comptroller, the Attorney General’s Office, the media, the constitutional Basic Laws) is an obstacle and must be neutralized? Or did Gantz have other motives for adopting Netanyahu’s talking points, which became the heart of the proposal for constitutional changes?

A moment before he and Netanyahu bash up Israeli democracy, the Kahol Lavan leader should remember the public and provide reasoned explanations for the agreement, which even an establishment figure par excellence like retired Justice Elyakim Rubinstein called “terrifying.” After dozens of hours with Netanyahu, the citizens, who are “more important than the leaders,” also deserve a few minutes.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.

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