Gantz put Netanyahu’s career on a respirator because of coronavirus

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz have not signed an agreement to form a unity government yet, but Netanyahu already won, because Blue and White has come apart.

Blue and White leader Benny Gantz and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meet to discuss possible political frameworks, October 27 2019 (photo credit: ELAD MALKA)
Blue and White leader Benny Gantz and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meet to discuss possible political frameworks, October 27 2019
(photo credit: ELAD MALKA)
English soccer player Gary Lineker once famously said "football is a simple game - 22 men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans always win." More than one political commentator tweeted on Thursday afternoon that Israeli politics is a simple game and, you play for 90 minutes and Bibi always wins.

The political “wizard,” as Netanyahu is often nicknamed, has done it again, and this time he has the coronavirus to thank for putting is political career on a respirator that could keep it alive for years to come, even when the crisis passes.
As these lines are being written, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz have not signed an agreement to form a unity government yet, but Netanyahu already won, because Blue and White has come apart.
Only hours earlier, it seemed that Netanyahu was losing some of the essential points of power in the Knesset as committee chairmanships and the Knesset speaker role were going to Blue and White. With a corruption trial looming – once more than 10 people can gather in one place – and efforts to form a coalition without Likud – as tenuous as they were – Netanyahu was getting politically weaker, even as he led Israel’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic as interim prime minister.
But then Gantz agreed to be temporary Knesset speaker to allow unity talks continue, rather than have Yesh Atid MK Meir Cohen take the role as planned. The surprising move came after Netanyahu made it clear that he would see installing Cohen, from the Yair Lapid-led branch of Blue and White, as an antagonistic move that would be an obstacle to a unity government.
Instead of turning to the people who recommended him as prime minister to President Reuven Rivlin, Gantz chose to pursue a government with Netanyahu. Gantz, the candidate to replace Netanyahu, the head of the “anyone but Bibi camp,” instead became the person who helped Netanyahu remain prime minister.
Gantz could have formed a unity government with Netanyahu and forgone the partnership with Lapid and Yesh Atid in October, but he didn’t. He also held out right after this month’s election. Blue and White maintained that Netanyahu was indicted on corruption charges, and therefore should not be prime minister, and they will not play a part in keeping him in office.
Netanyahu is still under indictment – that didn’t change.
What did change is the COVID-19 pandemic spreading around the world at an alarming, exponential rate. Netanyahu has been leading the response, but he is limited by being prime minister of an interim government which cannot spend beyond the constraints of the previous year’s budget. That means the government cannot set up emergency funds to help the many, many Israeli citizens who are suffering from the fight against coronavirus in ways other than immediate health emergencies.
Gantz emphasized in his remarks after he was elected Knesset speaker that his intention is to form a national emergency government, united in the face of this threat. He put supporting Israelis through the crisis before the survival of Blue and White.
“These are unusual times and they call for unusual decisions,” Gantz asserted.
“As the Knesset Speaker and prime ministerial candidate, I pledge to all the people of Israel that I will do the right thing at this time of emergency,” he said. “I and all of my colleagues and political partners will put all of our time, experience and abilities into managing the current crisis on behalf of Israel’s citizens…The people of Israel are justifiably looking to us and expecting us to keep supporting the sacred battle against the coronavirus and its effects.”
Gantz also promised that he will “safeguard our democracy,” apparently hoping not to disappoint all of Blue and White’s voters.
But he concluded with: “Let’s join hands and get Israel out of this crisis. Let’s put Israel first.”
One of Blue and White’s election slogans was to put Israel first, and Gantz used that to explain his actions. The coronavirus threatens all of Israel, coalition and opposition, and he is doing what he can to help in the fight – even if that means putting Netanyahu on political life support as a minister in his coalition.