There’s stunning news from Israel this morning. The country’s year-long political stalemate appears to be over. The leader for the last year of political opposition to Netanyahu, Benny Gantz, has folded and joined forces with Netanyahu to make a government with Netanyahu continuing as prime minister.
Gantz is breaking up his “Blue White” alliance of three center-right factions and bringing 15 seats over to Netanyahu’s bloc of 58 or 59 seats to make a strong majority, according to reports.
“Benjamin Netanyahu will be Prime Minister… Benny Gantz will be Foreign Minister,” says Ellie Hochenberg of i24 News. She says Netanyahu stayed loyal to his rightwing base and political allies, while Gantz did not.
Netanyahu is already Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, at four terms and 14 years, including 11 straight since 2009. He has been saved by his former army chief of staff — General Gantz pummeled Gaza in 2014, killing more than 500 children.
Netanyahu appears to have been saved by two factors: Coronavirus crisis boosting his numbers in Israel, and making Israelis reluctant to replace him, despite the fact that he is under indictment for corruption charges and due to go on trial. And outright racism.
It appeared that Gantz was going to remove Netanyahu just a week or so back. But then racism blocked any hope of doing so. Gantz’s Blue and White (33 seats) had been dedicated, along with Avigdor Liberman’s rightwing party (7 seats) and the remains of the Israeli left (7 seats) and the Palestinian Joint List (15 seats) to make a majority to knock out Netanyahu. The Palestinians would not be part of the resulting government, but then, that’s how a Jewish state works.
Then the defections began: three rightwing Jewish legislators refused to even work with the Palestinian legislators on a provisional basis. Gantz went from 62 to 59. Once again he and Netanyahu were virtually deadlocked, and there was talk of a fourth election, following three in the last year (April 2019 to March 2).
The new government is not official: what is official is that Benny Gantz is about to become Knesset Speaker, replacing Netanyahu ally Yuli Edelstein and reopening the Knesset, which had been shuttered. “The move is supposed to be temporary until a unity government is formed,” writes Lahav Harkov of the Jerusalem Post.
Gantz’s move betrays a lot of his allies. Palestinians legislators will vote against Gantz, Palestinian political leader Ahmad Tibi says.
Another Palestinian leader, Ayman Odeh, writes acidly (Hebrew google-translated), “They never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.” A play on the Abba Eban line that Arabs never miss such opportuniteis.
The Jewish left has been utterly discredited by these events. It played a part in elevating Gantz and praising him. One of their own number refused to vote for Gantz if the Palestinians were in the bloc.
Tibi writes at CNN that the Joint List is the true opposition to Israel’s rightwing government.
But Harkov says there will be a political battle between the Joint List and the remains of Gantz’s Blue White alliance — the 18 or so seats of Moshe Ya’alon’s and Yair Lapid’s parties — for the role of opposition. Raviv Drucker says that Moshe Ya’alon’s rightwing party will head the opposition.
Some observers say Gantz will be played by the political magician, Netanyahu.
“Benny Gantz with 15 seats is completely in Netanyahu’s hands. It would not be surprising if Netanyahu’s promises started to fade now that he was on his main mission – he managed to disassemble the Blue and White,” opines Raviv Drucker. Chemi Shalev of Haaretz is of the same opinion (per google translator): “If I’m Bibi, a minute after Gantz is sworn in [as speaker], I blow the agreement on unity. He crushes the opposition without paying a penny.”
Shalev likens Gantz to a short-lived German vice-chancellor, Franz von Papen, who enabled Hitler’s rise to chancellor in 1933. Who said Nazi metaphors are illegitimate about Israel? More Shalev (per google translator): “Inconceivable… As if Corona was not enough, Gantz came and shit on the heads of half the civilians. Is it to raise morale?”
Shalev also says that “the only safe votes against Netanyahu were Lieberman – and the Joint List.” Another sign that the Jewish left is reduced to feathers in the age of Netanyahu. While the Joint List is the only address for the left in Israel. And it is rising to a role of leadership in crisis.
Arabs and Jews fight coronavirus together but Jews don’t want Palestinians in the politics, Odeh writes. “I guarantee that whether you are Arabs or Jews, whether you voted for us or not, whether they took you out of the USSR, cut you percentages or get fired – you have an address in the Knesset. We are here for you.