In an amazingly short time, Benny Gantz has changed Israel’s political map. For the first time in a decade, Benjamin Netanyahu is facing a rival whom the public views as a comparable candidate for prime minister.
Gantz’s military experience has given him an advantage over the civilian politicians who challenged Netanyahu in the past and failed. He has also racked up an impressive success in politics, where, despite his lack of experience, he quickly set up the Kahol Lavan joint ticket – which incorporates Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party and Gantz’s predecessors as army chief of staff, Moshe Ya’alon and Gabi Ashkenazi – and brought it into the lead in the polls, in a tight race with Netanyahu’s Likud party.
Additionally, Gantz has displayed impressive stamina in the face of a campaign of incitement and smears by Netanyahu and his supporters, who have labeled the Kahol Lavan leader a sex offender, a pervert vulnerable to extortion, a psychiatric case and a traitor.
Gantz isn’t a dream candidate for people who want a liberal, egalitarian, peace-seeking Israel that treats minorities with respect and preserves economic responsibility. He has boasted of killing Palestinians in Gaza, refrained from endorsing the two-state solution, equivocated about the nation-state law, ruled out the Arab parties as coalition partners and presented an economic plan that involves running up the deficit.
He hasn’t spent a single day as a Knesset member, his diplomatic experience is limited, he’s no expert in economics and he has minimal understanding of social issues. Even his promises not to sit in a government with Netanyahu aren’t perceived as credible.
But despite his weaknesses, and the learning curve he’d have to undergo if elected, Gantz is the best candidate for prime minister. He is preferable because he represents the statesmanlike behavior that Netanyahu destroyed, and he promised to fix the nation-state law. He is preferable because he respects the rule of law, which Netanyahu, with his natural partners, trampled into the dust during his last term, and if reelected, will finish the job by passing a law to give sitting prime ministers immunity from prosecution, and carry out Ayelet Shaked and Itamar Ben Gvir’s plans.
Gantz is preferable because he seeks a compromise with the Palestinians and doesn’t seek to annex territory and deepen the occupation, as Netanyahu does. He is preferable because unlike Netanyahu, who is bored by Israelis’ day-to-day concerns, he has at least promised to deal with social problems, health and education rather than being focused, as Netanyahu is, on self-glorification, lies, incitement and sowing division.
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Gantz is preferable because on Election Day, you have to choose reality, not dreams. And he offers Israel a better reality than Netanyahu does.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.