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The mirage of Benny Gantz

Opinion
on 11 Comments

The country has chosen unity, the country has chosen Israel first,

said Blue and White leader Benny Gantz on Thursday, after the vast majority of Israel’s September 17th election votes indicated that his party had a slight lead on Netanyahu’s Likud (now 33-31, official results coming on Wednesday). None of the two seem to have prospects of creating a government that is other than a unity government combining their two parties, since Avigdor Lieberman is insisting on that with his kingmaker role of 8 seats. Both wider blocs (right and center-left) fall under the 61-seat threshold without Lieberman.

When you say “America first” today, you know what it means. It means white supremacy. In Israel, when you say “Israel first”, you also know what it means – it means Jewish supremacy, also known as Zionism. But in Israel, for some reason, this notion is accepted as an absolutely mainstream notion. Zionism above all else, it’s not considered racist.

Now recently, a big thing has happened: the Joint List, which mostly represents Palestinian citizens, and which is the 3rd biggest vote-getter with 13 seats, has endorsed Benny Gantz for becoming Prime Minister.

This was first reported as meaning that the center-left bloc has an advantage of 57 seats against the right bloc’s 55. But it turns out that there is a disagreement within the Joint List about this. One of the four factions, Balad (which stands for a secular democratic state) has insisted that “Gantz is planning on forming a government with Liberman and Likud”, and therefore “a recommendation for him is a recommendation for a unity government, which is even worse that a right-wing one.” 

Ayman Odeh, the head of the Joint List, had insisted in his overture to Israeli President Reuven Rivlin that he brought the support of all 13 representatives, but this is now moot. According to the Jerusalem Post, the support actually available to Gantz is down to 54, one seat under Netanyahu’s 55.

Lieberman’s 8 seats are the principal undecided seats. So once again, without the Lieberman support, neither bloc makes it, and Lieberman is not going to sit with the Joint List, whom he calls the “enemies”.

So everything is pointing to the center, that Zionist center, which is actually a right-of-center bloc. President Rivlin has pointed to it saying that “the people of Israel want a government that will be stable”, and that “a stable government cannot be a government without both of the two largest parties.”   

The head of the Blue and White delegation to the President is Moshe Ya’alon, the former Defense Minister, who is third in party leadership and a dedicated supporter of the Israeli settlement project. Ya’alon said he would welcome “all Zionist parties” in the coalition, meaning not the Joint List, and the Joint List know that they would be in the opposition in any case.

President Rivlin is going to decide at the earliest Wednesday evening when the final results become official, whether to give the first shot at forming a government coalition to Gantz or Netanyahu. There are various considerations that influence such a decision. One is the size of the leader’s party. In this case Gantz is leading but only slightly. Another consideration is the prospect of forming a future coalition. In this case none of the two has it without Lieberman, who seeks to exclude both the right and the left flanks: 24 seats of the religious and right parties (United Torah Judaism, Shas and the religious-nationalist Yamina), and 24 seats of the Zionist left (Democratic Union, Labor-Gesher) and Joint List. So Lieberman is not endorsing any candidate for Prime Minister at this point, yet going for a unity of the two main parties and his own Yisrael Beitenu as “the only option”. 

Rivlin is eager to get a unity deal. He says that the Israeli public is “disgusted” by the prospect of a third election (the September election was a do-over since the earlier April election failed to result in a government).

What has been guiding many of the ‘liberal Zionists’ has been the notion of “just not Netanyahu”. Netanyahu has been a great gift for these people, since they could say they oppose Netanyahu, and poof! You’re a liberal! Bari Weiss, one of the Zionist pundits at the New York Times, in an interview with Bill Maher, distinguished between Zionism and what she called “Bibiism” (using Benjamin Netanyahu’s nickname Bibi):

These are two very distinctive things. I am a huge critic of the current Prime Minister of the State of Israel. I believe that just as the Jews have a claim to the land, so too do the Palestinians, and if Israel wants to be a democratic, liberal state, there need to be two states.

Well that’s just great, but those “two states” are not on the table for Gantz anyway, who just chided Netanyahu for stealing his idea of annexing the Jordan Valley. So is Bari Weiss actually pointing to a true alternative? No, just “not Bibi”.

And the Joint List, at least the part of it that endorsed Gantz, is also part of this “just not Bibi.” Ayman Odeh said to President Rivlin,

 We are looking for the way to prevent Netanyahu from being prime minister, and that is what most of the public wants.

So there’s a great danger here. It is a danger of the relative legitimacy that a unity government may receive, for policies which, on the most critical political front vis-à-vis Palestinians, are not different from those of a Likud government. And that’s how to understand Balad’s claim that such a unity government is even worse than a right-wing one. Because that unity government, especially if it is going to be led by Gantz, is going to make it easier to legitimize the Israeli Apartheid status quo. And that’s what most Israelis want.

They wouldn’t mind that Gantz, the butcher of Gaza, who boasts about returning it to the “stone age” and longs to return to the days of glory which include more systematic extrajudicial assassinations, will lead the country, because after all that’s so Zionist. And he’s less crass than Netanyahu, and surely less corrupt too, so it’s a good image. People are tired of Netanyahu, change the poster.

It must be a huge conundrum for a Palestinian who can vote in Israel. Everything you do only ends up as damage control, whatever you do ends up being “Israel first”  – meaning “Palestinians last”.

Jonathan Ofir

Israeli musician, conductor and blogger / writer based in Denmark.

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11 Responses

  1. eljay on September 23, 2019, 11:04 am

    … When you say “America first” today, you know what it means. It means white supremacy. In Israel, when you say “Israel first”, you also know what it means – it means Jewish supremacy, also known as Zionism. But in Israel, for some reason, this notion is accepted as an absolutely mainstream notion. Zionism above all else, it’s not considered racist. …

    No surprise there: The hateful and immoral Zionist notion that the religion-based identity of Jewish grants to those who choose to embrace it the “right”…
    – to be supremacists;
    – to have as large as possible a supremacist state; and
    – to do “necessary evil” unto others,
    …has received far too much (hypocritical) support and validation from countries, organizations and people the world over.

  2. James Canning on September 23, 2019, 3:35 pm

    I think “America first” brings to mind foolish foreign policy of the Trump administration.

  3. wondering jew on September 23, 2019, 10:34 pm

    So the dust has begun to settle in the aftermath of the elections of 2019. if bibi netanyahu will have to leave office it could be 1. as a result of legal troubles or 2. as a result of rotation of prime ministership with benny gantz.
    the history of israel was quite flawed before the advent of bibi and it will be quite flawed after the advent of bibi, but many of us, supporters of israel, wish to see bibi leave the scene. the sooner the better. but unfortunately later is better than never.
    here is a lowdown on where israel is and what needs to be amended.
    the nation state law was in the wrong direction.
    situation in gaza should not be allowed to fester in a false hope that hamas will disappear.
    expenditures on the arab sector need to be increased and discriminatory laws that are without the basis of security should be written out of the books.
    if israel favors a two state solution, the borders of that state should be publicly stated or negotiated, but at least stated. if israel favors a one state solution, then full citizenship should be offered as soon as possible.
    these ideas are opposed by most israelis. how to deal with my ideal being out of reach and how to react to the political reality creates an unforeseen tension, experienced differently when i am in jerusalem compared to when i am in brooklyn.

    • eljay on September 24, 2019, 8:26 am

      || wondering jew: … here is a lowdown on where israel is and what needs to be amended.
      the nation state law was in the wrong direction.
      situation in gaza should not be allowed to fester in a false hope that hamas will disappear.
      expenditures on the arab sector need to be increased and discriminatory laws that are without the basis of security should be written out of the books.
      if israel favors a two state solution, the borders of that state should be publicly stated or negotiated, but at least stated. if israel favors a one state solution, then full citizenship should be offered as soon as possible. … ||

      y.f., sometimes you come so close to not being a Jewish supremacist (Zionist) that it gives me hope.

      But then you write things like “Arab sector” (in a supremacist “Jewish State” Jews are Jews but non-Jews are a “sector”) and fall typically-hypocritically short of advocating the elimination of all discriminatory laws.

      (I can’t imagine that you believe states should be able to discriminate against their Jewish citizens using arbitrary “laws with a basis of security”.)

      Oh, well. Maybe next time you’ll make it all the way over. (But probably not.)

    • Mooser on September 24, 2019, 2:11 pm

      “So the dust has begun to settle in the aftermath of the elections of 2019.”

      What makes you think it’s all over? I doubt very much it is. Is Israel limited to two elections?

    • Mooser on September 24, 2019, 2:14 pm

      “how to deal with my ideal being out of reach and how to react to the political reality creates an unforeseen tension, experienced differently when i am in jerusalem compared to when i am in brooklyn.”

      Yeah, dual-loyalty is a heck of a conflict. But considering the way the US has treated us Jews, who can blame you?

      • Keith on September 25, 2019, 10:41 am

        MOOSER- “But considering the way the US has treated us Jews, who can blame you?”

        When your identity requires eternal victimhood, it can be depressing to return from the hunt with too little to show.

      • oldgeezer on September 25, 2019, 11:55 pm

        @Mooser

        Being a supporter of crimes against humanity and abuses against our fellow humans while maintaing a pretence of being a philosophical humanitarian is a tough gig.

        I, for one, don’t think that yonah gets enough respect for this role.

        Yonah all your musings and rambling aside that is the sole core of you. You support racism, war crimes, crimes against humanity, the murder of innocent civilians and children. Well only when those civilians and children are of the right ethnicity or tribe. Otherwise it’s the worst crime in the history of man. No amount of shoulder shrugging or moaning about how thereare no options (there are many. More than many) absolves you of that except perhaps in your own mind.

        As totallyvile as characters such as dabakr, jon s, jackdaw, etc are, at the least they get credit for being totally open with their complete dishonesty. You attempt to hide your abject racism behind thoughts and musings but your stripes are plain to see.

  4. Boomer on September 25, 2019, 1:30 pm

    Thanks for this. Before I saw it, I had some hint of the reality from this, written along similar lines:

    https://www.juancole.com/2019/09/netanyahu-government-palestinians.html

    (Brief version: “give war a chance”)

  5. pgtl10 on September 26, 2019, 12:29 am

    You’re a liberal! Bari Weiss, one of the Zionist pundits at the New York Times, in an interview with Bill Maher, distinguished between Zionism and what she called “Bibiism” (using Benjamin Netanyahu’s nickname Bibi):

    These are two very distinctive things. I am a huge critic of the current Prime Minister of the State of Israel. I believe that just as the Jews have a claim to the land, so too do the Palestinians, and if Israel wants to be a democratic, liberal state, there need to be two states.
    _________________________________

    Notice how Bari claims the only way for “Israel to be liberal and democratic” is for two states. In other words there is absolutely no way for Palestinians and Jewish Israelis to be in a liberal democratic state because the Palestinians are backwards and incapable of democracy.

    It’s this kind of racism in disguise that needs to be called out. Peace cannot happen when Zionism cannot see Palestinians as equal human beings. It’s this kind of veiled racism that needs to called out and fought against. True peace comes when Jewish Israelis stop looking at Palestinians as barbarians but as actual human beings.

  6. lonely rico on September 26, 2019, 10:02 am

    Reflections on the ugliness that is Israel, from Sept. 20 article in The Palestine Chronicle
    Jeremy Salt – All Points Alert: Killer State at Large

    [t]he most important news was not the elections but the killing of a Palestinian woman in the West Bank …
    The woman, Alaa Wahdan, was shot with an assault rifle as she walked towards a checkpoint near the Qalandiya refugee camp …
    She was walking on the road, having missed the pedestrian lane allotted to the Palestinians. That was the crime for which she had to die.
    Alaa fell to the road and was left there unattended for half an hour, bleeding to death. The Palestinian Red Crescent said it was prevented from attending to her. The soldiers watched her drag herself along the roadside on her front, the blood pouring out of her body, leaving a long, wide red stain behind her …
    They let her die, in line with unstated state policy.
    Who Alaa was precisely, a mother, a sister, a daughter or an aunt, was of no interest to the occupiers.

    In the background, while Alaa crawled along the road, her lifeblood draining away, the spivs, the thieves and the war criminals quarreled over who should be next to take over the occupation of Palestine.

    http://www.palestinechronicle.com/all-points-alert-killer-state-at-large/

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