Gantz, Netanyahu and the modern ‘Great Compromise’

While our politicians may be painting this as too great an impasse to resolve the answer, it is actually quite simple.

By MICAH THAU
October 10, 2019 21:22
Gantz, Netanyahu and the modern ‘Great Compromise’

Netanyahu, Rivlin and Gantz holding hands . (photo credit: RONEN ZVULUN / REUTERS)

In 1787, during the Constitutional Convention, James Madison drafted the Virginia Plan in order to solve a seemingly impossible political predicament regarding representation in the federal legislature. States with larger populations and those with smaller ones were debating as to how the legislature was to be composed. Larger states proposed that the legislature should be determined by population, whereas smaller states wanted each state to have equal representation. 
 
Each side fought bitterly over the matter until Madison proposed a unique system: a bicameral legislature, whereby one house would be determined by population size and another where each state had two representatives. The proposal was adopted by the Constitutional Convention and became fondly known as The Great Compromise. 
 
This pivotal moment in American History united the fledgling country under a federal banner, and was fair in that both sides sacrificed. The smaller states were still less powerful than their counterparts but had succeeded in ensuring their interests were represented, while the larger states had granted the smaller states disproportionate power but had created a federal legislature in which they wielded greater authority. 
 
Many claim this compromise was unfair but laid a strong foundation for a united country that today is the world’s major superpower. Each state had compromised and put country over party in a historic act from which our country, Israel, can learn. 
 
After a second election, this country also finds itself in the grasps of political deadlock between disputed election victors Benny Gantz and Benjamin Netanyahu. And while I am not suggesting Israel form a bicameral legislature, the wisdom of the Virginia compromise is undoubtedly pertinent to this political standoff.
 
While our politicians may be painting this as too great an impasse to resolve the answer, it is actually quite simple. As President Reuven Rivlin suggested, the parties must share power and agree to a prime ministerial rotation. However, Gantz must surrender the first rotation as prime minister. Furthermore, he must allow Netanyahu to remain premier while Netanyahu must stop negotiating as a bloc with Yamina and the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) parties. 
 
In this way, with an already governing majority, Likud and Blue and White – the majority parties, which together hold 65 seats – could invite parties they believe could strengthen their majority, not out of a sense of desperation but out of their responsibility to form a broad unity government. 
 
Even more so, it would mean that these smaller-interest parties could not threaten the government with its annihilation each time they do not get their way. The majority of the country could finally govern from the center comfortably rather than being pulled to the Right or Left by coalition partners.
 
Furthermore, after a brutal double election cycle, this country desperately needs a dose of unity: the kind that propelled Likud to power in the first place under the leadership of Menachem Begin, to whom Jewish unity was so important that he refused to fire on Jews who were actively shooting at him during a weapons dispute with David Ben-Gurion.
 
FOR LIKUD, this compromise is a win because, for one thing, Netanyahu remains premier for the time being. More to the point, his political exit happens while he presides as prime minister over a strong unity government rather than a tragic ending of drowning in scandals and an endless election campaign.  
 
Moreover, Netanyahu has played juggle-master for the right-wing parties for so long that, while he has done it well, this circus has begun to take a toll on the party’s identity. By negotiating as a bloc with the haredim and Religious-Zionist parties, Netanyahu communicates that they are one and the same, and hence that Likud has lost its sense of self without them. In the grand scheme of things, it is a positive thing for Likud to find itself again without these partners so that it can determine its values and platform on its own. 
 
Furthermore, this decision to negotiate as a bloc was all for leverage anyway, and while it may buy Netanyahu his continued reign as premier, it does not go so far as to ensure him prosecutorial immunity or the ability to build another right-wing religious government – and it is exclusively dependent on whether he sacrifices this bloc. 
 
As a Blue and White voter myself, it is difficult to accept Netanyahu’s continued premiership. In actuality, under the Rivlin compromise, if Netanyahu is indicted, Gantz will take his place sooner rather than later so Netanyahu can attend to his legal issues. Furthermore, Blue and White can push its Center-Left agenda and pass almost all the bills in its platform. 
 
Obviously, the devil is in the details, and it is clear that Likud would have to have some reason not to simply bring down the government after Netanyahu’s term is finished. There is no alternative. Likud seems unwilling to jettison Netanyahu. Having him take the second term seems both unlikely and illogical, and no party has a clear path to building a coalition. Additionally, even if one could, it would require a laundry list of extortions by smaller parties: more useless ministries, more pandering to extremists on either side, and the continued rolling of the bureaucratic wheel that crushes the majority and its interests under its partisan weight. To boot, a third round of elections would be another egregious waste of taxpayer money simply to clarify what is already staring us in the face: the need for compromise. 
 
Politicians are elected for the specific purpose of governing. So far, they have failed to accomplish that bare-minimum requirement. Obviously, corruption is horrible, and people may worry about having a new politician as prime minister. But this is who the electorate has voted for. That is another burden of democracy: accepting the results of an election, however painful. 
 
The gulf between Gantz and Netanyahu is not wide in terms of policies, but is rather wide like their egos. We the people have invested these two men with the power to govern, and rather than fighting over who gets to sit in the big-boy chair, it is vital that they learn the first rule of kindergarten and share the immense privilege of ruling this land – for that is the greatest compromise of all. 
T
he writer is an author of the Eshel Pledge. He has written for the Los Angeles Jewish Journal and has a blog for the Times of Israel. He recently immigrated to Israel, lives in Modi’in and works at a local business in Jerusalem. 


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