Gantz’s dilemma: Fight now or hope luck will shine once again - analysis

It is a dilemma with bad options for Gantz. Supporting Knesset dispersal means following Lapid's lead, going against dispersal means caving in to Netanyahu.

Alternate Prime Minister and Defense Minister Benny Gantz (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Alternate Prime Minister and Defense Minister Benny Gantz
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
The bill Yesh Atid is bringing on Wednesday to disperse the Knesset looks as if it was tailor-made for Benny Gantz.
The vote will be on a preliminary reading of the bill. There are still three more readings that need to pass before the Knesset disperses, a process that can be dragged out for weeks.
This is classic Gantz – drag things out, wait, remain in a holding pattern and hope that something comes your way. If it doesn’t, then anyhow on December 23 – the deadline to pass a budget – the Knesset will come to an end. Gantz won’t even have to do anything.
That is how his speech on Tuesday night sounded. The first part was actually impressive and included the attack: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he said, was a “serial violator of promises” who politicized management of the coronavirus and lied when signing a coalition agreement that he would pass a budget and rotate out of the Prime Minister’s Office.
But Gantz, like Gantz, couldn’t go all the way. After announcing that his party would vote to disperse the Knesset, he couldn’t bring himself to shut the door on a possible solution. “Bring a budget immediately, pass it and guarantee the unity government,” he said, almost pleading with Netanyahu to save him, as well as the government.
The truth is that for most of his career, this strategy worked. In July 2009, Gantz was serving as the IDF military attaché in Washington, looking at retirement. Then-defense minister Ehud Barak wanted Yoav Gallant to be the deputy chief of staff; then-chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi wanted Gadi Eisenkot. In the end, as a compromise, they chose Gantz.
Fast forward to 2011, when just months after retiring and hanging up his uniform, Gantz was called back to the IDF to serve as chief of staff after the appointment of Gallant had to be rescinded.
In both cases, Gantz did not expect to get the job. In both cases he got it by pure luck, a method that has kind of been the story of his political career. When he decided in 2018 to run for political office, he initially believed that if he squeezed out enough seats, he could be defense minister in a Benjamin Netanyahu-led government. Becoming prime minister was not even an option at that initial stage.
But all that changed – and Gantz now faces a dilemma the likes of which he has only once before needed to consider when he split from Yair Lapid in April: Does he now go down fighting – and hope that a fight wins him back some votes – or does he hold out, agree to some compromise that buys some more time, and hope that the luck that made him chief of staff will once again shine his way?
It is a dilemma with bad options for Gantz. On the one hand, having Blue and White vote to disperse the Knesset might feel like he is taking the reins for the first time in this government. But in reality, he is simply following the lead set by Lapid, his former partner, who placed the bill on the parliament’s agenda.
On the other hand, if he had ordered his party to vote against dispersion, he would have been seen as once again caving in to Netanyahu.
Deep down, Gantz would prefer to hold out and see if there is a deal to be reached with Netanyahu that would include the eventual passage of the budget and rotation of the Prime Minister’s Office. The problem is that he knows there is almost no chance that this will ever happen.
What has gotten Gantz concerned is the narrative Netanyahu is already pushing – that he is in favor of unity – and that Gantz, by supporting elections, is opposed. The former IDF commander fears that this version will stick and that the public will believe Netanyahu, even though the Likud leader was the one who undermined this government from its first day in office.
Gantz’s fears are not unfounded. After more than a million people voted for Netanyahu in three different elections despite his indictment and trial, Gantz should be worried that a similar result will come again.
With that said, Gantz should remember the slogan he used when joining politics in December 2018 – “Israel before all.”
If he still feels that way, then he would know that now is the time to bring down this government, which has been a colossal failure from the get go. Israel doesn’t have a budget despite being in the throes of a severe economic crisis; Israel is failing to contain the coronavirus due to political games; and Israel is more polarized today than ever before in recent history.
If Israel is really before all, then Gantz already knows what is right. As Eli Wallach famously said in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: “When you have to shoot, shoot – don’t talk!”