Unity needed in Israel after the third elections

Netanyahu and Gantz united the country’s Arabs. If only now they could do the same to the country’s Jews.

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)
The elections might not have provided an end to the Israeli political stalemate, but the campaigns of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White head Benny Gantz succeeded in doing one thing: uniting the country’s Arab voters.
That’s right, the negativity towards the Joint List, the delegitimization of a government resting on the support or backing of the Arab party, had a huge unintended consequence: It brought Arab voters out in record numbers, and gave the Joint List a historic victory.
Netanyahu and Gantz united the country’s Arabs. If only now they could do the same to the country’s Jews.
Uniting the Jewish people is, obviously, a very tall order, and Netanyahu and Gantz do not have the ability to do that. But what they can do – what they must do for the country’s sake – is form a unity coalition.
The people of Israel need a government, they deserve a government, and it is incumbent upon the politicians to provide them with one. The country needs to know that if there is a crisis, the decisions taken by the prime minister and the government are objective, and that any matters at hand are dealt with void of immediate electoral considerations.
If that is true in “normal times,” when security crises are constantly lurking just around the corner, it is even truer now, when the coronavirus has upended daily life.
At this time, with a health and economic crisis at our doorstep – if not already just inside the doorway – the country needs to have confidence that the crisis is being handled regardless of political considerations. On top of all the other concerns the virus has dropped on Israel, people should not have to worry – as some are – that Netanyahu is overstating the crisis to demonstrate that at times such as these, a strong, decisive leader is needed.
After three inconclusive elections, Israel cannot afford to limp to yet another. Personal vendettas must be set aside, campaign promises explained away and allegiances to natural coalition partners broken up in order for a government to finally be sworn in.
Both Netanyahu and Gantz need to face some hard facts and cold truths.
Netanyahu must realize that he does not have a right-wing majority bloc. He may be close, and he may have personally scored an impressive showing in the last election, but he is no closer to forming a government now then he was after the elections last April. And there is no reason to believe this would change if yet another election is held in September.
Yes, Netanyahu may have a clear majority among Jewish voters, but this is a democratic country, where each vote is equal and the religion of the voters matters not a whit. He is short of a 61 Knesset majority. Period.
Gantz, too, must realize that Netanyahu is not simply going to leave office willingly. He may believe passionately that a man who will begin standing trial in a week does not deserve to head the government, but over a million voters concluded otherwise. It’s time for him to realize that he cannot dictate who will lead the Likud.
For the sake of a unity government, therefore, Gantz will have to eat his pledge to his voters not to join a government with Netanyahu. It won’t be easy, but the hour necessitates it. Plus, it is likely that many of his voters would understand this, and prefer this option to subjecting the country to yet another corrosive round of elections, with no guarantee that anything would turn out differently.
And Netanyahu may have to say goodbye to his political covenant with his haredi partners, if they are unwilling – as at least UTJ has said – to sit in a government that includes Blue and White’s Yair Lapid. He will also have to agree to limits on his term due to his pending trial.
The time of boycotts and blocking maneuvers is over. Israel has been there, done that over the last year, and it benefited nobody. Netanyahu and Gantz need to put their mutual antipathy aside and figure out how to govern together.
Now is the time for both men to rise above themselves and figure out a way to give this country the unity government it needs and deserves.