The battle for the legitimization of the Joint List

I kept assuring all those who were inclined to vote for Blue and White rather than for Labor-Gesher-Meretz because they distrusted Levy-Abekasis that she was trustworthy. I was wrong.

ORLY LEVY-ABECASSIS and Amir Peretz at party headquarters on election night in Tel Aviv on March 2. (photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/FLASH90)
ORLY LEVY-ABECASSIS and Amir Peretz at party headquarters on election night in Tel Aviv on March 2.
(photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/FLASH90)
I voted for Labor-Gesher-Meretz in the recent elections. Among many of the list's potential voters, there were some who had reservations about Gesher leader Orly Levy-Abekasis because they suspected that after the elections, in certain circumstances, she was likely to defect and join a government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Levy-Abekasis never concealed the fact that politically she holds a right-wing ideology. However, since her main interests are social issues, she feels quite at home with the Left, and repeatedly stated that she had no problem collaborating with the Arab parties on these issues.
These feelings translated into her creating a single list with Labor Party chairman Amir Peretz in September 2019, after failing to pass the qualifying threshold in the April 2019 elections, when she ran on her own. Towards the March 2020 elections, she agreed, half-heartedly, to join, together with the Labor Party, a single technical list with Meretz, to prevent the failure of Labor-Gesher and/or Meretz to pass the qualifying threshold if they ran separately..
I kept assuring all those who were inclined to vote for Blue and White rather than for Labor-Gesher-Meretz because they distrusted Levy-Abekasis that she was trustworthy. I was wrong.
Last Thursday, Levy-Abekasis announced that she would not support a narrow government headed by Benny Gantz with support from the Joint (Arab) List, arguing – as do all members of Netanyahu's 58 bloc – that “a government supported by MKs who support acts of terror and terrorists is not legitimate.”
True, two past MKs from Balad (one of the components of the Joint List) – Said Naf'a (a Druze) and Basel Ghattas – were tried and received prison sentences on grounds connected with contacts with terrorists. But that does not turn all the Arab MKs and their voters into supporters of acts of terrorism and terrorists, or justify disqualifying them from playing an active role in support of a government from outside the coalition.
On February 13, before the last elections, Levy-Abekasis told Ynet, “I have no problem that they [the Joint List] will support social issues from outside the government…. We shall enter a government whose basic guidelines will include the issues of all the citizens.” This was somewhat vague. She did not state unequivocally that she would support a government that would be dependent on votes of the Joint List, but at the time it certainly gave an impression that she did not reject such a situation.
Be that as it may, at the time of this writing it seems as though Levy-Abekasis is planning to recommend to President Reuven Rivlin that he assign the task of forming a government first to Netanyahu – contrary to the approach of the list in whose fold she ran and was elected. It is not clear whether she can legally do so.
One may argue that since her recommendation to the president might be critical to Gantz's chances of being assigned the task of forming a government first, Levy-Abekasis should resign, and let Labor-Meretz replace her with the next in line to join their parliamentary group - former MK Ilan Gil'on from Mereta. She is unlikely to do so.
It is rumored that the Likud has, in return for her defection, offered her the Labor and Welfare Ministry (should Netanyahu form the government), along with a promise to support her father – former MK and minister David Levy – for the presidency in two years, after Rivlin's term ends. Levy-Abekasis denies that this is the case, even though it is doubtful she would have dared embark on such a move without some sort of assurances from the Likud.
HOWEVER, WHAT disturbs me more than Levy-Abekasis's defection, and Amir Peretz' refusal to take responsibility for the consequences of his ruinous alliance with her, is the fact that the cause for this mess was the overt rejection of the Joint List as a legitimate partner in the formation of a government in Israel – even if it remains outside the coalition. Abekasis is not the only one in the “anyone but Bibi” camp who holds similar views. Blue and White members Yoaz Hendel and Zvi Hauser also feel similarly, though it is unclear how they will act under the circumstances. That means that while the “only Bibi” bloc enjoys the support of 58 MKs, the “no government dependent on the support of the Joint List” bloc formally enjoys the support of 61.
The main argument of the latter bloc is that Israel cannot have a government in which the Joint List will have the power to prevent the government from taking measures that are vital for Israel's security. This argument is false.
In the unlikely situation that Gantz manages to form a narrow government, it is unthinkable that the opposition right-religious bloc would fail to support measures to serve Israel's legitimate security concerns proposed by a government that consists of three former chiefs of staff. True, Netanyahu is inclined to oppose any proposal put forward by the opposition. He even admitted in November 2018 that he failed to support a proposal to take action against violent husbands because the proposal had been raised by the opposition, and was publicly admonished by his wife for doing so. But there must be limits even to Netanyahu's cynical approach.
In fact, Netanyahu's position regarding Israeli Arabs is not based on legitimate security concerns, but on pure racism. Even the recently published US State Department report on Human Rights Practices in the world for 2019, made the following observation with regards to Netanyahu: “During the April and September national election campaigns, the Likud Party deployed messages promoting hatred against Arab citizens, including a chatbot message on Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Facebook page saying, ‘The Arabs want to destroy all of us, women, children and men.’”
Though the report noted that Netanyahu denied approving this message, it certainly reflects other statements he made over the last few years.
When Netanyahu called upon Gantz last week to join a “national emergency government” under his leadership, against the background of the coronavirus pandemic, Gantz responded that such a government should include all the parliamentary groups, including the Joint List. Netanyahu rejected the idea, saying “supporters of terror cannot be part of this government.” 
I do not know what Gantz replied, but it should have been something  like, “We are talking of a major health issue, and the Arab community in Israel plays a major role in Israel's health system, as doctors, nurses, auxiliary staff in hospitals and nursing homes, and as pharmacists.” I would add that the Arab contribution to Israel's faltering healthcare system is certainly much greater than that of the ultra-Orthodox community, whose main contribution is a mediocre health minister.