Less than a week after his impressive electoral achievement, the head of the largest Knesset faction, Kahol Lavan leader Benny Gantz, conceded his right to be the first to try and form a coalition government. The explanation given by “party sources” for this concession is that Gantz prefers to wait for Netanyahu to try first and fail.
Regrettably, this lame excuse is unconvincing. This move looks like a capitulation without a fight, an admission that the right wing’s long-standing tactic of delegitimizing parties representing Arab society succeeded. Gantz was apparently worried over being portrayed as someone who “depends on the votes of anti-Zionist, terror-supporting Arab citizens,” as the Joint List is described by right-wing politicians and journalists.
Gantz ignored the Joint List’s support for him as the candidate for the prime minister’s job, even though without it he has no chance of forming a coalition. He refrained from discussing the demands posed by the Joint List, responding with disdain (“our platform already addresses these issues”), not trying to even put on a show of trying to prevent the departure of the Balad faction in the Joint List, which refused to recommend him to the president. This leaves him with only 54 Knesset members supporting him, one less than Netanyahu has.
Balad relinquished an unprecedented opportunity to present its positions in the course of political negotiations, hunkering down behind its anti-Zionist ideology that automatically disqualifies cooperation with any party that is not part of the Joint List, from the extreme right to Meretz.
Balad represents a significant position within Arab society, and it’s a good thing it wasn’t disqualified from participating in the election. But by refusing to recommend Gantz, it effectively supports the continued corrupt, inflammatory rule of Netanyahu. Using a cover of ideological purity and listing the wrongs committed by the Zionist movement against Palestinians, from Herzl to Netanyahu, cannot justify such political folly. The bottom line is that they preferred Bibi to [Joint List MK] Tibi.
In contrast to Balad, Gantz can’t, and is not even trying to, justify his concession with ideological reasons. Hollow slogans of “unity” and “conciliation,” accompanied by ostracizing the representatives of 20 percent of Israel’s citizens, place him among a long list of centrist and leftist politicians who folded in the face of hypocritical tests of patriotism posed by the right, allowing Netanyahu to keep holding on.
Obviously, the results make it hard for Gantz to form a coalition and fulfill his promise to replace Netanyahu. But by handing his rival the mandate, he threw away the hopes and expectations of his voters.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.
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