Gantz, This Is the Only Thing You Have to Tell Netanyahu

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Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Prime Minister Netanyahu, December 2020.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Prime Minister Netanyahu, December 2020. Credit: REUTERS / ASSOCIATED PRESS

In a preliminary vote on Wednesday, the Knesset voted in favor of dissolving itself. The bill was introduced by the opposition Yesh Atid-Telem faction, but it gained the support of 61 Knesset members, including those from Kahol Lavan, Derech Eretz and the Labor Party. The Kahol Lavan members supported the proposition after the chairman of the party, Benny Gantz, announced Tuesday that his party would do so unless Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu immediately advanced passage of next year’s state budget.

There is no shortage of reasons to break up this bad government. Nothing that it has done has absolved it of the sins in its creation, which involved betrayal of the voters, a mass theft of votes and the alteration of Israel’s constitutional structure in a way that serves a criminal defendant and bypasses the constitutional limitations barring him from serving as a cabinet minister but not as prime minister. The unity government that was established to promote domestic reconciliation and to fight the coronavirus is a total failure on both counts. Israeli society is more divided than ever, the handling of the COVID-19 crisis is failing and the Bank of Israel has even assessed that the country is en route to 35 years of economic stagnation.

Although Gantz made a serious error in turning his back on his voters and the partners on his slate, while blatantly violating his promise not to join a criminal defendant’s government, make no mistake: The person responsible for the country’s grim situation and who is dragging it into a fourth election campaign in two years in the middle of a crisis is Benjamin Netanyahu.

Netanyahu deceived Gantz and deceived Israel’s president, the Knesset and the public as a whole when he signed a rotation agreement and committed to unity, without any hanky-panky. He slyly inserted a provision into the coalition agreement that permits him to break up the partnership without transferring the position of prime minister to Gantz as he committed to do. Now Netanyahu is holding the state budget hostage, and it appears that only a surrender by Gantz to Netanyahu’s dictates – either forgoing the rotation or granting him immunity – will make him pass the budget and restore the flow of economic oxygen to the citizens of the country.

On Sunday, Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit contacted Netanyahu, Gantz and Finance Minister Yisrael Katz and made it clear to them that the time for introducing the budget in the Knesset had passed, even with regard to the 2021 budget. He also mentioned that they were violating the law in the process, which requires the government to introduce the budget bill 60 days before the beginning of the fiscal year.

So Mendelblit called them on this. So the law was broken twice. So, what will you do to Netanyahu?

“It’s a tactical step,” a Kahol Lavan source said in explaining Gantz’s support for dissolution of the Knesset. But it was Gantz’s tactics that got him into his current situation. Enough with tactics, Gantz. The only message to Netanyahu is a budget now or an election.

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

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