Gantz's Party Must Wake Up

Haaretz Editorial
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Minister of Foreign Affairs Gabi Ashkenazi and Kahol Lavan chairman Benny Gantz, Sderot, February 24, 2020
Haaretz Editorial

The purpose of the Kahol Lavan party was to serve as an alternative to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s corrupt and corrupting government. Kahol Lavan won major public support which, while not enough to enable it to take the reins of government, did give it enough clout to create a new agenda. The dismantling of Kahol Lavan as an alternative to the present government, together with the weakness of its leader, Benny Gantz, has left it as an excess appendage in Netanyahu’s government, without an agenda, a kind of brakes for Likud’s unbridled initiatives.

But the brakes are worn and weak. Kahol Lavan appears to be unable to deliver even these goods. What’s worse, last week the leaders of Kahol Lavan and many of its members supported outlawing the protests against Netanyahu – that is, they hurt themselves as part of Israel’s democratic fabric and lent a hand to criminalizing a good portion of their own electorate.

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It’s no wonder then that in recent weeks there’s a sense of foment among Gantz’s supporters. It began with the resignation threat of Science and Technology Minister Yizhar Shai and the votes by MKs Ram Shefa and Miki Haimovich against the protest-restricting amendment to the coronavirus law. The foment culminated in Tourism Minister Asaf Zamir’s announcement on Friday that he was resigning.

In response, Gantz directed Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn to expedite the search for a permanent state prosecutor and called for the launching of the process to appoint a new permanent police commissioner. “Whoever this doesn’t suit should set a date for an election,” Gantz said. Gantz’s chances of actually appointing a new state prosecutor are slim, because the coalition agreement precludes the appointment of senior officials to the civil service during an emergency, and also because the appointment will have to be approved by the government, which is controlled by Netanyahu.

But whether this is a real threat or merely a hope, it’s possible that Gantz has begun to realize both his sorry political situation as well as the condition of the country, which is declining under the baton of a man under criminal indictment.

Zamir’s resignation must serve as a wake-up call to Kahol Lavan’s leadership. They must one again apply the principles which formed the basis of their decision to join the government: Putting a halt to the continuing erosion of civil rights, presenting a plan to limit the damage of the lockdown, standing strong in the face of Netanyahu’s destructive whims and pushing for his incapacitation. Too late Kahol Lavan recognized its fatal mistake when it consented to being crushed underfoot by Netanyahu and Likud. But it can and must still save the economy from decimation, and the country from a prime minister unsuitable for the post.

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

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