Following a contentious third election, Israel seemed to have yet another political deadlock. However, no one could have foreseen the developments which have occurred over the past couple of weeks. Benny Gantz, blindsiding his own political allies, abandoned his claim to change the right-wing government and instead decided to join them in their coalition. Consequently, he brought about the collapse of Blue and White – which consists of 3 parties – by pulling his party, Hosen Le-Israel, out and joining Netanyahu’s bloc. The other two parties, Yesh Atid and Telem, left the union, but had the necessary majority to continue using the name Blue and White. Meanwhile, Gantz and the 14 MKs in his own party became part of the right-wing bloc in an “emergency government” to fight the novel coronavirus, COVID-19.
Many say that Gantz betrayed the 1.2 million voters that supported Blue and White, but he continues to convince himself and the world that what he did was for the benefit of the country and the people in their fight against the coronavirus. However, as seen throughout the years, Gantz and his party will have no additional influence in fighting the spread of the outbreak, as the regulations intended to fight the virus are passed only by the Prime Minister without the need for passing legislation in the Knesset or even in the government.
While an official agreement is yet to be signed, the new unity government will most likely be as follows: Netanyahu will remain as Prime Minister until 2021, while Gantz will become the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Deputy Prime Minister, replacing Netanyahu in 2021. The rest of the government positions will be divided up between members of Netanyahu’s right-wing bloc and Gantz’s Hosen Le-Israel party. While such an agreement may seem like an innocent attempt to carry out a peaceful transition of power, it is far from it. Netanyahu will use this additional time as Prime Minister in order to pass legislation in the Knesset that will grant him immunity from prosecution over the numerous corruption charges against him. Worse yet, given Netanyahu’s reputation as a cunning and capable politician, it is also likely that he will simply use this agreement as a temporary fix in order to grant himself immunity and then betray Gantz in order to stay in power for even longer.
With the prospects of Netanyahu and his right-wing coalition remaining in power seemingly inevitable, it is no surprise that in terms of policies, not much is to change. We can still expect the same right-wing approach when it comes to the expansion of the occupation and in terms of economy. There might still be some clashes when it comes to matters of state and religion – Hosen Le-Israel is a secular party and might oppose some of the policies that were advanced in the old government by the religious parties and their allies. Therefore, the coalition is very vulnerable to potential dissolution as clashes arise between its secular and religious wings.
You may be thinking to yourself, “What about the Joint List and their historic achievement?” While it is true that the Joint List has accomplished a historic milestone and that it has finally cemented itself as the sole voice of a progressive, left-wing, pro-peace platform, the bitter reality is that the right wing’s growing strength in the country has caused the majority of the Israeli population to be so blinded by racism, bigotry, and hatred, that it is not ready to accept peace as a solution
For many actors in the Palestinian community, including in the Joint List, it was clear from the beginning that Gantz was another right-wing leader who is keen on expanding the occupation and inciting against the Palestinian citizens in Israel just as he did during his campaign. However, while Gantz is no different than Netanyahu, the Joint List’s decision to recommend Gantz for PM was simply in order to oust Netanyahu and end his era – it was by no means an endorsement of Gantz. The Joint List understood that it would not matter if Gantz replaced Netanyahu or not, the same policies would continue to be enacted either way.
The Joint List reasoned that by ousting Netanyahu and recommending Gantz, the Joint List would have a bargaining chip in that Gantz’s government would rely on the Joint List in order to avoid its collapse. This represented an unprecedented power in the hands of Palestinian citizens of Israel.
However, while a large portion of the Israeli population followed Gantz blindly, believing that he is the face of change, the Joint List was able to see straight through his lies and pollical ploys. When it came to the formation of government, the Joint List stood their ground and refused to simply grant Gantz their votes without conditions. In fact, the Joint List forced Gantz’s hand by refusing to blindly support his coalition and made hefty demands including the removal of the Nation-State Law and the Kaminitz Law (against building in Palestinian areas) as well as ending the occupation and alleviating the suffering of Palestinian citizens of Israel. Thus, the Joint List was able to expose Gantz for who he really is, leading him to join Netanyahu and abandon his so-called ‘centrist’ platform.
While the Joint List did in fact recommended Gantz for Prime Minister in the end, it was in order to cause a rift between the different parties which comprised Blue and White and Labor-Gesher-Meretz. This move revealed to the world the fact that while many parties in Israel claim to be centrist and progressive, they are anything but; and that the Joint List is the last remaining progressive, pro-peace party in Israel.
The next step for the Joint List is to use its newly-found status and power in order to establish and lead an all-Palestinian national conference that would put up a strategic vision with clear goals for the Palestinian people. President Trump’s “peace” plan and the infinite years of Netanyahu in office are the biggest threat to the Palestinian people in years, and it is time for us to reconvene and put up a new plan with the support of Palestinians in Israel, in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and in the diaspora.