Benny Gantz has only until Wednesday until he must form a government or return the mandate. It’s anyone’s guess what is going to happen.
And here I was, just days ago, thinking that maybe it would go well and we would have a unity government in very short order. But that was during one of my momentary lapses, when I had let down my guard of cynicism and was actually feeling optimism.
Of course, I hadn’t pulled the optimism out of thin air, simply doing wishful thinking. There had been signs.
With regard to the decision by Netanyahu to assassinate Abu al-Ata, Gantz said:
“The political echelon and the IDF made the right decision last night for all Israeli citizens and the residents of the South. Blue and White will support all appropriate decisions made for the security of the State and will put the security of all of its residents above politics.”
Other supportive statements from Gantz – who was briefed by the prime minister – followed while the rockets were flying.
It was possible to feel, at that juncture, that a new tone had been set and that these two would get their act together and form that unity government for the sake of the country.
I hasten to add that Yair Lapid (pictured) did not participate in that mood of conciliation during the hostilities from Gaza. He proceeded to snipe in his normal fashion, as did Lieberman.
But there was another reason that a unity government seemed more likely: After what we had contended with concerning the violence from Gaza, it seemed unthinkable that Blue and White would even consider forging a minority government that depended upon support from the (anti-Zionist, predominantly Arab) United List. Truly unimaginable.
Or so we would have thought.
When Shabbat was over yesterday, we were greeted with an alarmed statement from Prime Minister Netanyahu saying that he knew with certainty that Blue and White was considering a minority government.
My response was one of incredulity and bewilderment. There are three generals in Blue and White – Benny Gantz (with his party, Resilience), Moshe Ya’alon (with his party, Telem), and Gabi Ashkenazi (who has joined their ranks without a party). Would they have acceded to this?
But would Netanyahu ‒ who, in truth, has a history of becoming alarmist in his statements when the political situation is tight – have made such a charge if it weren’t true?
It was an “insane” plan that Gantz had, charged Netanyahu. A third election, he told officials, was “a disaster.” But “a minority government dependent on the Joint List is even worse.”
Calling the situation “historically dangerous,” he said, “We need to rally the public to bring down such a government immediately.”
Gantz, countering Netanyahu’s charge of a minority government being “dangerous,” responded that what was really dangerous were the rockets launched against Israel. The implication was that there would have been no rockets had Netanyahu handled matters better.
But wait a second! Gantz praised the prime minister for making the right the decisions, when those rockets were falling. Sigh…
The bottom line here, my friends, is that we are witnessing an unpleasant game of political hardball in which each side is hoping to get the other to blink first. With this comes a whole lot of spin.
This shouldn’t be happening—our people DO deserve better—but it is happening:
Gantz is still hoping for a unity government, but one with just Likud, and without Yamina and the haredi parties. He is hoping that Netanyahu, confronted with the specter of a minority government, will break apart his right wing bloc.
There are various scenarios being projected for how this might turn out:
If Gantz really does go with a minority government, I am reading, he would expect it to be merely a transition ‒ with others joining once the government had been established, so that he’d have his majority coalition. Presumably, and foolishly, he appears to be reasoning that Likud, by itself, would come aboard at that point.
But the right wing understanding is quite the reverse: The minority government would be so inherently unstable that it would fall quickly – and the right, from the opposition, would do everything possible to bring it down. Then there would be elections, and the electorate, disgusted with what Blue and White had done, would provide the right wing with the additional necessary mandates.
None of this has to happen, none of this should happen.
What disturbs me is that Gantz apparently seems to consider support by the Arab parties from the outside as preferable to a unity government with religious, right-wing elements. If this is true, and it is not just spin, it tells us a great deal. I will not speculate here on the amount of influence Lapid has had on Gantz’s present stance.
Should Gantz go in this direction, there would be one very serious question to be raised: What would he have to promise the United List in order to secure their cooperation from the opposition (i.e., a promise not to participate in bringing the government down)?
Gantz has held a meeting with President Rivlin, presumably to discuss ways to still make the unity government a reality. And he has met with Lieberman, who may join that minority government, should it evolve. But it has many days since he has met with Netanyahu: they are at an impasse.
Netanyahu, who has no intention of splitting apart his right wing bloc, hopes to apply public pressure on Gantz that would make it near impossible to form that minority government; he is calling for a Likud emergency meeting and a public rally tonight.
At the Cabinet meeting this morning, Defense Minister Naftali Bennett made an appeal to Gantz and to Lieberman (emphasis added):
“Israel’s greatest enemies Nasrallah [Hezbollah], Sinwar [Hamas], and Khameini [Iran] are following the developments and want a political split. They want us divided.
“They want a weak minority government based upon Arab parties that are set against the Jewish State. We cannot give them this, the strength of this people is its unity.
“I call from here to Benny Gantz and Avigdor Lieberman…you love the State of Israel. Be brave and join a unity government.”
Amen on this.
There will be charges, already have been, that Netanyahu’s position is “anti-Arab,” while in reality that is not so. He is opposed (as am I!) to a Zionist government relying upon MKs who do not believe in a Jewish state. There are multiple examples, but I point to just this one: Ahmad Tibi, a leader of the Ta’al party that is part of that Joint List. Tibi was an advisor to Yasser Arafat.
Consider this incongruity well.
To counter these charges, I share information from an article in Haaretz, of all places, entitled, “Could Netanyahu actually be good for Israel’s Arabs?”
Since 2007 Israeli-Arabs in high-tech increased 18-fold. Arab civil servants doubled to 11.3%. 15% of Israeli doctors are Arab. Israeli-Arab schools are receiving unprecedented levels of funding. And a third of new students at Israel’s Technion are Arab.
In the interest of providing my readers with a bit of clarity (or so I hope!), I will send this out ‒ with the proviso that we need to all stay tuned.