Don't Be Tempted, Gantz

Benny Gantz attends a Kahol Lavan meeting in Jerusalem, October 3, 2019.

Benny Gantz’s meeting on Wednesday with Chief of General Staff Aviv Kochavi was in order to receive “an update on recent regional developments directly from the chief of staff,” according to the Kahol Lavan head’s associates. And there certainly have been developments, like the Iranian attack on an Saudi Arabian oil installation that got no American response, or the American withdrawal from northern Syria that paved the way for the Turkish attack on the Kurds. Tehran also has accused Israel of involvement in the attack on an Iranian oil tanker; all this has taken place against the background of a quick visit by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Israel.

Gantz certainly gives Israeli security the highest priority and his initiation of a meeting with Kochavi to get a firsthand situational assessment is understandable. Nevertheless, one must remember that parallel to the complex geopolitical situation, there’s also a prime minister who is in a tangle both legally and in terms of his flagging efforts to form a government. Moreover, we’re talking about a prime minister who doesn’t hesitate to link his own personal-political situation to the state’s diplomatic-security situation.

Gantz should consult with Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked and learn a lesson in political cynicism, which they experienced in November 2018, when Benjamin Netanyahu tried to prevent the breakup of his coalition by sowing a security panic, accompanied by his usual frightening rhetoric about how, “we find ourselves in one of the most complex security situations ever, and you don’t go to elections at such a time.” In response to the intimidation campaign, Bennett and Shaked, then leaders of Habayit Hayehudi, withdrew their threat and subsequently paid a heavy political price.

The Iranian issue is indeed dramatic and worthy of serious and comprehensive handling. Any attempt to mix it with domestic politics is dangerous and could prove tragic. Therefore, even if Gantz is persuaded that Israel is facing a significant security challenge, it doesn’t mean he has to join a coalition with Netanyahu and thusly rescue him from political distress. Kahol Lavan can support any military operation or diplomatic decision that benefits Israel at any time without being a part of a Netanyahu government. Gantz ought to devote most of his efforts toward forming an alternative coalition so he can be ready to do so the moment the president hands the mandate over to him.

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