Netanyahu Must Be Replaced for Israel’s Sake

From Left: Joint List Chairman Ayman Odeh, Kahol Lavan leader Benny Gantz and Joint List lawmaker Ahmad Tibi, October 2019.
Ofek Avshalom

Kahol Lavan’s raison d’etre is to bring the era of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to a close. It’s no coincidence that they’ve been dubbed the “Just Not Bibi” party. The glue holding the party’s disparate parts together is the absolute certainty of Benny Gantz, and the factions to his left (Yesh Atid) and his right (Telem), that for Israel’s good, Netanyahu must be replaced. That’s why the party was founded, and that’s why people voted for it.

In remarks he made over the weekend, Gantz declared, “The era of Netanyahu’s rule is over,” and he promised to “make every effort to prevent a fourth election.” The only way to keep that promise is to form a government with Labor-Gesher-Meretz, with the support of Yisrael Beiteinu and the Joint List alliance of Arab parties.

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We must be realistic: The election results on the one hand, and the ultra-Orthodox parties’ commitment to the right-wing bloc that Netanyahu heads on the other, doesn’t leave Kahol Lavan a choice. Despite the separatist position of Balad (one of the component factions of the Joint List), without political cooperation between Jews and Arabs there is no option for replacing Netanyahu and avoiding a fourth election.

Now that the Joint List has won 15 seats, the center-left bloc has started to internalize what Netanyahu understood years ago: The only threat to right-wing rule is cooperation between all of the bloc’s parties, including the Joint List. This insight dictated Netanyahu’s political strategy throughout the years of his premiership: Divide the left’s different parts, prevent them from joining forces, and govern forever.

The delegitimization campaign against the Arab MKs is exactly what it sounds like – a campaign aimed solely at persuading the public that parliamentary representation for Israel’s Arab citizens is unacceptable and dangerous, and that working with them is forbidden.

Netanyahu doesn’t hide the fact that he regards the Arab vote as invalid, and he omits the seats the Arabs won when he tallies up the vote. With his enormous arrogance he declared, “The leftwing bloc is only 47 seats,” and that “The Arabs are not part of this equation, and that’s the people’s will.” For him, a possible coalition that includes Arabs, or that is supported by them, is “vote theft.”

Therefore it isn’t just realpolitik, but a moral imperative. Netanyahu’s incitement against Arab citizens, their representatives and those who are prepared to cooperate with them, and the rotten fruit of this incitement that fills the public arena, make him a leader who must be replaced, for Israel’s sake.

On Monday Gantz spoke with Joint List chairman Ayman Odeh, faction head Ahmed Tibi and Ra’am party chairman Mansour Abbas. According to a statement, during the talks Gantz repeated his intention to set up a government that will serve all of Israel’s citizens, Jews and Arabs alike. “In the State of Israel every vote is equal,” declared Gantz, in response to the exclusion of the Joint List from the seat count by the rival camp.

It’s time to show that this is not just talk.

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