Defense Minister Benny Gantz, the chairman of the Kahol Lavan party, evidently thinks he is chairman of the Israel Defense Forces union. In that capacity, he is threatening to lead his party in a strike if the government fails to accept the union’s demands.
On Monday, Gantz announced that Kahol Lavan members won’t take part in any votes in the Knesset plenum except for no-confidence votes. He is taking this step, he claims, because the governing coalition has broken its promises to him. Further, he cited an “emerging danger to national security.”
The message is clear: If the government does not capitulate to his demands, they will no longer have a majority for any Knesset vote. The move comes two weeks before the Knesset is set to go on recess, a time when the coalition is seeking to clear its docket and finish passing various laws. Gantz is exploiting this timing to exert exorbitant pressure on his colleagues in the cabinet to accede to his budgetary demands for the Israel Defense Forces.
For Gantz, the ends justify the means. In this case the means include delegitimizing fellow members of the coalition in ways that Opposition Leader Benjamin Netanyahu and his colleagues would approve of. “I regret that populist politicians, some of them genuine post-Zionists, have chosen to deliberately undermine national security,” he said.
This is coalition thuggery and lying demagoguery. National security is not at stake, rather a law to increase IDF pensions and legalize excessive payouts made to career officers.
Gantz’s threats go beyond national security, and target the government’s survival. “It’s untenable that the extreme elements within the government keep dragging the center after them time after time,” he said. “Anyone who doesn’t vote for the government’s decisions endangers its continued existence,” he added. But Gantz himself is guilty of that behavior.
This narrow, eclectic government is indeed vulnerable to extortion by any of its members, but Gantz is doing the very thing he’s complaining about. His conduct exposes the ugly relationships at the heart of the center-left bloc and enables him to extort his party’s political achievements at the expense of other parties in the coalition.
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Unlike his coalition partners, Gantz is the only one to have joined a Netanyahu-led government. This despite the fact that hundreds of thousands of people voted for him as an alternative to the former prime minister. We can’t even rule out the possibility that Gantz will make the same mistake again. In other words, his threats to topple the government could be implemented.
This crisis once again lays bare the coalition’s main weakness: The ease of paralyzing the Knesset and shutting down its legislative process. Capitulating to Gantz would likely only intensify the crisis.
Gantz must come to his senses. The war he is waging for the benefit of his friends’ pensions might pave Netanyahu’s path back to power at a time when Israel is in desperate need of governmental stability.
The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.