There are several proofs of the fact that the term “national emergency government” is devoid of content. One is that Yaakov Litzman is staying on as health minister. Another is that the Kahol Lavan party didn’t demand “coronavirus portfolios” like the health and finance ministries.
And here’s a third piece of evidence demonstrating that the pandemic is just a smokescreen for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: the fact that during Likud’s negotiations with Kahol Lavan over forming a government, the main dispute has been over the issue of annexation.
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The self-evident question is why, at the height of an unprecedented health crisis – at a time when the health system is on the brink of collapse, the education system is shut down, the population is in quarantine, the elderly are separated from their families, cities are under lockdown and more than a million Israelis have become unemployed – why, amid all this chaos, is Netanyahu, and presumably other sections of his right-wing bloc, primarily concerned with the issue of unilaterally annexing parts of the West Bank?
This suffices to reveal Netanyahu’s true goal, which is neither a national emergency government nor a need for other parties to “grab the stretcher” and help deal with the pandemic. Netanyahu is simply using the coronavirus to ensure his continuance in power, while also creating irreversible facts on the ground in line with the right’s policy. Netanyahu, who just a few months ago celebrated Donald Trump’s “deal of the century,” doesn’t intend to give up the one-time deal the U.S. president has offered – annex now and “pay” at some indefinite future time, if ever.
Kahol Lavan wants to define a six-month period as an “emergency government.” During this period, the government would focus on fighting the coronavirus and dealing with the resultant health and economic crises, while setting aside major diplomatic issues like annexation. Gantz must not compromise on this point. He depicted his dramatic decision to turn his back on his own voters, his political partners and his main campaign promise – not to serve under a prime minister charged with severe crimes – as an existential necessity, a kind of cease-fire for humanitarian purposes in exceptional circumstances.
The fact that Netanyahu is pushing for this emergency government to make changes in the country’s borders – in defiance of the Palestinians, the rest of the world and opponents of annexation within Israel, and at the risk of a military escalation in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip – is illegitimate, and ought to set off flashing red lights for Kahol Lavan’s leaders. If Gantz blinks on this issue, he will pull the rug out from under his official pretext for betraying his bloc and joining Netanyahu. The only way for him to try to regain even a smidgen of credibility is to thwart the right’s dangerous annexation plots at any price.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.