Former Blue and White coalition leader, Benny Gantz, has single-handedly destroyed the very alliance he founded by agreeing to join a unity government with the ruling Likud and its far-right bloc. When the news broke, his former partners, Yair Lapid of Yesh Atid and Bogie Yaalon of Telem, angrily denounced the betrayal and vowed to go into Opposition. Gantz’ decision reminds one of Dr. Frankenstein’s decision to destroy the monster of his own creation.
It also brings to mind the Book of Lamentations, recited in its doleful melody on Tish’a B’Av. The Book memorializes the destruction of Jerusalem, laid waste by Babylonian conquerors in 586 BCE:
“How abandoned lies the city,
How like a widow is she,
Who was once mighty among the nations!”
Benny Gantz hasn’t destroyed Jerusalem, but he has hammered yet another nail in the coffin of Israeli democracy (whatever remains of it).
Gantz had vowed numerous times during previous election campaigns that he would never sit in government with an Indicted prime Minister. This is one of the serious problems besetting all Israeli political life. Vows made to the electorate are tossed aside as if they were used toilet paper. As a result, voters learn never to trust anything said by their leaders. This breeds profound cynicism and rots the Democratic foundation.
Gantz is also ignoring ominous precedent in casting his lot with Netanyahu. The past two Labor Party leaders who did so ended by being chewed up and spat out by the wily prime Minister. Amir Peretz and Ehud Barak both self-sabotaged their own careers and their Party through collaboration with Likud. If we go back even earlier, when Shimon Peres took Labor into cohabitation with Likud, it began that Party’s slow decline into irrelevance.
In fact, the last remnants of the Labor Party plan to join in the new unity government: an indication of how the once-mighty rulers of Israel for decades have fallen. Its former partner, Meretz, split off from Labor refusing to join the new ruling coalition. The former now seeks to preserve what little remains of its dignity, which it already sold by linking its fate to Labor in the last election.
Netanyahu is sitting in the catbird seat. He rules the roost just as he has for much of the past 25 years of Israeli political life. No matter what befalls him, he not only bounces back, but he trounces his rivals and enemies. He will surely do the same to Gantz.
Gantz is no doubt anticipating that his new partner will be tried and convicted of the corruption charges he faces. He may expect that such a development would force Netanyahu’s rivals within Likud to dump him, thus leaving an opening for Gantz to become prime minister. Or he could withdraw from the government and force a fourth election.
That presumes that the electorate will forget the betrayal of his campaign promises. If Gantz were a charismatic leader whom the people trusted, that would be one thing. But he is a wooden, inert figure who inspires little devotion of confidence. The fact that he feels confident that he and his Party can somehow benefit from this unholy alliance indicates how deluded he is and how poor his political instincts are.
Gone is the hope that some Israelis had that a Blue and White coalition would acknowledge the Palestinian Joint List and offer it some power in the new Knesset. Gone is the hope that the rancid racism of the Zionist Jewish Parties might be abating ever so slightly. This reinforces the conviction that the only way to bring real democracy to Israel and resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is through outside intervention. Israel will never reform itself from within. There is no Israel Jewish Gandhi or even DeGaulle.
Further, the decision to form a unity government indicates how corrupt Israeli politics has become. Promises mean nothing. Words mean nothing. The only thing that means anything to these scoundrels is power and the opportunity to divvy up influence and the spoils. There is no sense of devotion to national interest. That is considered identical to the personal interests of the Party leaders.
In case, you haven’t absorbed the full impact of this development from what I’ve written here, this is a disaster. Gantz has proven himself unworthy of leadership. His Party may linger into another election or two. But he and whatever he represents is destined for oblivion. That, of course, benefits only one part of person and Party, Netanyahu and the Likud. Gantz’s betrayal may even harm the prospects for the two Parties which aligned with him to form Blue and White.
The only element of Israeli politics that remains stable and consistent is the Judeo-fascist far-right. It continues to be the dominant political force in Israel. And that is the disaster that is modern-day Israel.