On Tuesday evening, two days before its expiration, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu returned to President Reuven Rivlin the mandate to form the next government. Rivlin announced immediately that he would reassign the task to Kahol Lavan chairman Benny Gantz, who by law has 28 days to complete it.
In announcing his decision, Netanyahu stressed that he had made every effort to bring Gantz to the bargaining table, but “time and time again he simply refused.” Gantz deserves praise for steadfastly maintaining his refusal to join a government led by Netanyahu. In doing so, he kept Kahol Lavan’s campaign promise.
Even though it’s very likely that Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit will decide to prosecute Netanyahu, we must not forget that the damage Netanyahu has caused the state and Israeli society, both as head of the opposition and as head of the government, far exceeds the corruption allegations against him, which are laid out in exacting detail in the draft indictment that Mendelblit made public when he announced his intention to charge Netanyahu with bribery, fraud and breach of trust, pending the hearing that was held two weeks ago.
Netanyahu’s tenure was characterized by incitement and a policy of divide and rule, and everyone was considered a legitimate target for his fulminations: Israel’s Arab citizens, the left and its leaders, civil society organizations, the courts, the state prosecution, the media, academia, the police and the president of the state. Netanyahu made personal attacks on police officers, prosecutors and journalists. He made false accusations against Israel’s Arab citizens and allowed their blood to be shed. To win elections he made common cause with the followers of Rabbi Meir Kahane and sanctioned Kahanism, and in his attempts to escape prosecution he acted to bend the law to his needs and to eliminate the tools given to the judicial branch of government to prevent a tyranny of the majority.
After maintaining his refusal to join a Netanyahu-led government, Gantz and Kahol Lavan have now been given the task of putting together a government that will constitute an alternative to the spirit and path of Netanyahu. Israeli democracy needs rehabilitation and Israeli society desperately needs reconciliation and a leadership that can mend the wounds left by Netanyahu.
But we must not forget that the issue is not only the end, but also means: Only the extension of a brave hand to all of the “tribes” that make up the Israeli mosaic — including the Arab minority and ultra-Orthodox Jews — and the expression of a sincere willingness to together draw up a new social contract based on equality and respect for each other’s differences will enable Gantz to form a government. It must be hoped that his partners will support him in these efforts and not impede the building of the new bridges that are necessary in order to breathe new hope into the possibility of Israel’s future.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.
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