Israel's Government Should Appease Gantz

Haaretz Editorial
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Israel's Defense Minister Benny Gantz in Tel Aviv, in March.
Haaretz Editorial

The tense relations between Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Defense Minister Benny Gantz hit a new low this week, after Bennett revealed in a speech to the Knesset an operation to uncover more information about the fate of missing air force navigator Ron Arad.

Bennett did not consult the defense minister before his address, and Gantz, in response, made sure the word got out that the operation was a failure (Michael Hauser Tov, Haaretz October 7).

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The constant friction between Bennett and Gantz is cause for concern, because the defense minister has already proved that he cannot be counted upon to resist the seductive powers of Benjamin Netanyahu. Just 17 months ago, Gantz – who at the time headed the “anyone but Bibi” bloc – joined Netanyahu in forming a government, in the foolish belief that Netanyahu would later cede the Prime Minister’s Office to him.

Consequently, it’s impossible to dismiss the suspicion that Gantz still clings to his delusion of becoming prime minister. He also seems to hold a grudge against his colleagues in the center left who denied him the possibility of running the country.

This is evidently why the tension between Gantz and his partners has dogged the governing coalition since the beginning of the talks to establish it. It peaked this week, but there have been other recent indications of it. A good example was Gantz’s summoning of Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi and the head of the army’s Southern Command, Eliezer Toledano, for a talking-to over Toledano’s continuing to maintain a direct channel of communications with the prime minister’s foreign policy adviser, Shimrit Meir.

This “government of change” is prone to disaster as a result of its eclectic composition. The ideological tensions between its right and left wings, like the partnership with the United Arab List, pose difficult challenges that can only be expected to worsen in the event of a military confrontation. But there is an additional layer to the tension with Gantz, one that goes beyond this tension over ideology. The defense minister might well be tempted by yet another of the empty promises that Netanyahu is so skilled at issuing in order to obtain what he wants at any price.

For that reason it is important that all the members of the governing coalition, and especially the prime minister, be wise enough to work with Gantz in a spirit of true cooperation, without any unnecessary surprises. And it’s no less important that Gantz leaf through his personal archives and recall the long march of public humiliation to which Netanyahu subjected him.

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

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