“Let there be no doubt, the High Court of Justice will exploit this opportunity in order to oust me,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to his associates recently. The person accused of criminal wrongdoing added that if Supreme Court justices prevent him from being prime minister, or if a law barring him from contending for that post in the future were passed, a civil uprising would erupt in Israel. “Masses will take to the streets,” he predicted. “There will be a call to boycott the election” (reported by Gidi Weitz in Friday’s Haaretz).
And then, despite these words, it emerged on Saturday that Benny Gantz is close to signing an agreement on a unity government with Netanyahu. The chairman of Kahol Lavan is refusing to internalize the fact that it’s not the coronavirus but Netanayhu’s looming trial that is the only threat on the prime minister’s mind, and that it is only his attempt to evade a trial that is driving him to seek a partnership with Gantz.
How many more hints does Gantz need in order to see the full picture? Only last week Gantz and his associates realized that Netanyahu was insisting on controlling the appointment of justices who would be judging his case. This should have been sufficient to understand what Netanyahu is really after.
The Kahol Lavan leader’s lack of understanding is colossal. Instead of pursuing his wish to restore Israel to a path of statesman-like behavior and the rule of law, he may turn out to be the person extricating Netanyahu from his legal predicament. Gantz believes that the coronavirus pandemic has changed the rules. However, it’s becoming clear that the pandemic is a smokescreen used by Netanyahu to maneuver Kahol Lavan’s chairman into a unity government trap. Netanyahu has already made Gantz commit all the possible errors: to turn his back on his political allies and on his voters, to return his mandate for forming a government to President Reuven Rivlin, and – the biggest mistake of all – to relinquish the promotion of legislation that would put restrictions on a prime minister and prevent someone accused of breaking the law from serving in that post.
The messages coming from Kahol Lavan on Saturday, indicating an imminent signing of an agreement with Likud, only confirm that Gantz is refusing to see the writing on the wall, which is there in big bold letters. After dismantling his rival’s party, Netanyahu will use Gantz in order to dismantle the rule of law. If this indeed transpires, Gantz cannot plead innocent. He’s walked into this trap for simpletons with eyes wide open, instead of insisting on the most basic principles which should have been his guiding lights: first of all, by holding Netanyahu’s trial at the earliest possible date, with the technological means necessitated by the coronavirus; and by passing laws that would prohibit a person under criminal indictment from forming a government. These are not “anti-Bibi” laws, these are elementary laws for protecting us from government corruption.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.