Gantz, Don’t Fold by Joining Netanyahu

Kahol Lavan leader Benny Gantz (L), Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin shake hands at the memorial for late President Shimon Peres, Jerusalem, September 19, 2019.

On Tuesday evening Benjamin Netanyahu gathered the Likud MKs and announced: “There are two possibilities – a government headed by me, or a government leaning on the Arab parties.”

That was one of his routine incitements, the kind he emits automatically as part of the project to shred the Israeli social fabric that he has been working at assiduously for two decades. However, Thursday morning, on the annual memorial ceremony for Shimon Peres, Netanyahu suddenly detected the possibility of different government: “We must set up a broad unity government this very day.”

Netanyahu changed his tune within 12 hours, and not by chance. He understands very well that despite his verbal and political tricks [“right-wing bloc”], he’s got a serious problem. This problem is not called “the order of the day” or “we will demonstrate responsibility” – this problem is called “indictments.” Netanyahu understands that Tuesday’s election torpedoed his intention of setting up an immunity-override government, and that in about two weeks he is due for a pre-indictment hearing before the attorney general. He’s in a tight spot.

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After realizing that Avigdor Lieberman and Amir Peretz won’t rescue him, he turned to the next political option, Benny Gantz. In doing so he used the tailwind provided Thursday by President Reuven Rivlin [“I clearly hear the voices calling to set up a unity government”] and the “we have a state to run” clichés [Netanyahu: “Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Shamir agreed to cooperate – to navigate Israel’s course to a safe harbor”].

This is an important test for Gantz. He and his party have declared repeatedly in the past two campaigns that they won’t sit with Netanyahu in the same government. To a large extent, the 33 Knesset seats Kahol Lavan received, which turned it into the largest party in Israel, are a direct result of the disgust with Netanyahu – the man and his path. So there’s no need to wait for the indictments – Netanyahu should not be part of the state’s leadership because of the fatal harm he did to democracy, his attempts to liquidate the gatekeepers, the incitement and instigation he led and of course the long and detailed charge sheet against him, which casts a dark, criminal shadow over his conduct as prime minister.

Gantz and his party leaders must not use the vote of no-confidence in Netanyahu, as reflected in the election, to form a unity government with him.

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