When the government was sworn in on Sunday, Benny Gantz – the shattered political hope of the center-left and incoming vice prime minister and defense minister – asserted that the people had told its elected representatives, “Stop fighting among yourselves and start working for us.”
But judging by the new government’s size, the ones who started working for someone else on Sunday are the people. It’s the public that will have to pay for the most wasteful, inflated and greedy government in the country’s history.
The very man who, until not long ago, headed a bloc that was united around the understanding that Israel was being led by a corrupt and corrupting leader – a criminal defendant charged with serious crimes who was evading justice in the legislature and warping the law to suit his own needs – gave a conciliatory speech in which he even praised the decency of the man indicted for bribery.
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Without a jot of self-awareness or self-respect, Gantz declared, “The biggest political crisis in the country’s history has ended. The time has come to end the era of incitement and division and launch an era of reconciliation.”
But his complete capitulation to his rival, at the price of breaking his promises and abandoning both his colleagues and his values, isn’t a cure for corruption, but a symptom of it. “If they bought you, at least don’t try to sell us the idea that there was no choice,” opposition leader Yair Lapid said of Gantz. “They bought you. You have a price, that’s what you are.” Though Gantz gained power by deceiving many of his voters, he honestly earned this criticism from the man who until recently was his partner.
At a time when Israel has more than a million unemployed people and its unemployment rate has exceeded 24 percent, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is throwing sand in the public’s eyes and salt in its wounds by excusing the inflated size of this “parity” government, claiming that the cost of a unity government is “incomparably lower than the cost of another election.”
This is cheap demagoguery. The supposed savings could at most justify a unity government’s existence. But what justifies the unprecedented size and shame of a government with 36 ministers, one in which many of the ministries have been created, sliced up, divided or tailored especially to enable its establishment?
Netanyahu depicts as necessity what’s entirely in his and Gantz’s hands. Exactly what prevented them from setting up a lean government with the minimum necessary number of ministers, one that was established and would operate solely according to the needs of the public and for the sake of its welfare?
The government established on Sunday talks loftily about reconciliation, the coronavirus emergency, equality and unity. But everything about it screams alienation, disconnection, exploitation and greed.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.