Editorial |

Netanyahu Only Understands Force

Haaretz Editorial
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Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at a news conference in Jerusalem, August 24, 2020.
Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at a news conference in Jerusalem, August 24, 2020. Credit: Debbie Hill/Pool via REUTERS
Haaretz Editorial

The most recent crisis of the “reconciliation government” ended Monday just two hours before the deadline for the Knesset’s dissolution, with the approval of the bill to extend by 120 days the deadline for passing the national budget. If there’s one, not necessarily surprising lesson in this for Benny Gantz, it’s that the only language Benjamin Netanyahu understands is that of force.

There’s no hope that reconciliation will come of this government, since the relationship is based on total distrust. The prime minister has been in power for 11 consecutive years. Over time he has developed bad habits and adopted an authoritarian, corrupt and contentious governing culture. He breaks promises and agreements, lies to the public, lies to his political partners and in the past few years slanders his political rivals and even his partners. He is a prime minister who has no red lines, a populist leader who demonstrates zero statesmanship, and there’s no longer any point in trying to change him.

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Gantz himself knows all this, and nevertheless he joined up with him for the sake of fighting the coronavirus pandemic and out of a naive hope for Israeli national conciliation. He needed 100 days to realize his error. “For 100 days I was silent in the face of personal attacks. I was silent in the face of profanity and ridicule from senior Likud officials. The 100 days of silence, containment and restraint are finished,” he said at a news conference before the vote. He went on to make a promise: “Never again will I allow anyone to erode democracy. I will not let anyone appoint puppets on his behalf to public positions in sensitive places.”

The chairman of Kahol Lavan was referring to the criminal defendant’s intention to choose Israel’s gatekeeper, the national police commissioner, the next state prosecutor and, later, the attorney general. Even though Netanyahu denied seeking to interfere in these appointments, it’s clear that Gantz knows full well that his unreliable partner cannot be trusted, and that one must always be on one’s guard.

Gantz should be encouraged by the fact that his insistence on not cooperating with Netanyahu’s extortion attempts bore fruit. Netanyahu accepted the compromise proposed by MK Zvi Hauser and was forced to withdraw his demand for a one-year budget. In exchange, supplemental funds for opening the new school year and for urgent health and welfare needs were approved.

In the months that remain until the next crisis, Gantz would do well to maintain this approach. No more pointless dreams of cooperation and healthy work relationships, but rather acceptance of the fact that Netanyahu is a bad partner who must be under constant watch. The past few days proved without a doubt that Netanyahu needs Gantz no less than Gantz needs Netanyahu.

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

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