The speech by Knesset Speaker Benny Gantz at the traditional Independence Day torch-lighting ceremony at Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl Tuesday evening – a rite that symbolizes the abrupt shift from the grief of Memorial Day to the joy of Independence Day that typifies life in Israel – shows just how disconnected from reality is the man who only recently symbolized the hope for change among half of the country’s voters. What did Gantz’s moving remarks have to do with what is actually taking place in Israel, in part due to his joining a government led by the criminal defendant Benjamin Netanyahu?
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This man – who only recently was the head of a large bloc that, for the first time in many years, proudly raised its head and believed in the possibility of change toward a social recovery – turned, in his disgraceful surrender, into one more symbol of Israeli society’s destruction by the most corrupt and corrupting leader in the history of the state, which on Wednesday commemorated 72 years of independence.
The theme of this year’s ceremony, which due to the coronavirus crisis was recorded in advance and without an audience, was “Connections in Israeli society.” This was reflected in Gantz’s remarks. Still, there was a notable ironic gap between the lofty talk of connections among the various parts of society and the cynical, utilitarian political connections that are at the foundation of the phony national unity; a unity that is nothing more than a cover story for Netanyahu’s immunity from prosecution on the one hand and “jobs for the boys” on the other hand. All this at a time when more than 1.25 million Israelis have joined the ranks of the unemployed.
Toward the end of his speech, Gantz alluded to the political crisis. “We have experienced wars, battles, economic crises, and yes, also political crises. We have always overcome these crises, even when they involved difficult decisions,” he said, waxing eloquent as he asserted that “we, the leaders, take responsibility, work for you, the citizens of the country, care for the unity of the nation, and preserve the democracy and the rights of every person.” The man who lent his hand to an agreement that distorts all of the rules of Israeli democracy and fatally injures the principle of separation of powers and the independence of the judiciary continues to present himself, without an iota of self-awareness, as a guardian of democracy.
There is no way to resolve the gap between Gantz’s promises and reality; between the fact that the person who only recently stood at the head of the “Just not Bibi” camp just eternalized his rule, and the person who won the election on account of his commitment to defending Israeli democracy from Bibi’s corruption signed an agreement providing for the dissolution of the Knesset in the event that Netanyahu is precluded from serving as prime minister, if the High Court of Justice rules against him by dint of his having been charged with offenses involving moral turpitude.
The high-flown rhetoric and the Independence Day festivities only enhanced the shock at the fact that the person who was elected to fight corruption is a signatory to a license to commit corruption for three additional years.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.