According to a Channel 13 poll, most Israelis support the coalition deal signed on Monday between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz. The numbers (62% in favor and 22% opposed) are not surprising.
Following three Knesset elections that ended in deadlock and numerous negotiations that led to nowhere, the public is both fed up and beaten down. The prospect of returning to the ballot box for a fourth time – particularly with the country in the throes of the coronavirus crisis – made the very inking of the Netanyahu-Gantz agreement for an “emergency national unity government” palatable. Under any other circumstances, the deal in question would be cause for dismay, if not outrage.
With more than a quarter of the workforce unemployed and small businesses bankrupt due to forced closures, the provision for 36 ministers and up to 16 deputy ministers – not to mention a second official Prime Minister’s Residence – is pretty shocking to taxpayers of all ideological stripes. Furthermore, there is no guarantee that the deal, which requires the changing of Basic Laws, will pass muster with the Supreme Court.
In other words, when all is said and done, another round of elections may be unavoidable in the near future.
Nevertheless, a majority still hopes for the next government, however bloated, to be up and running and ready to heal the ailing economy before it dies of COVID-19. Though a gargantuan task – especially for a coalition that contains an array of capitalists, socialists and fiscal fantasists – it is a mission that enjoys national consensus. Except, of course, among the “anybody but Bibi” extremists. You know, the ones who are unleashing the wrath they previously reserved exclusively for Netanyahu on Gantz.
YES, THE politicians who propped up the former IDF chief-of-staff as the perfect candidate to replace the longest-serving prime minister in Israel’s history are treating him like a traitor.
Take Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid, for instance.
Gantz’s co-pilot in the Blue and White “cockpit,” Lapid – like the bulk of the bloc’s motley crew – was willing to join forces with the anti-Zionist Joint List, comprised of Arab parites, in the endeavor to oust Netanyahu. That’s how far Gantz’s gang was prepared to go in the absence of a Knesset majority to form a government, despite repeated declarations that they would never even consider accepting outside backing from a party that includes proponents of terrorism against Jews.
Luckily, Blue and White MKs Yoaz Hendel and Zvi Hauser, as well as Gesher MK Orly Levy-Abecassis, refused to cross that particular red line. If they had not, Gantz would have cobbled together a minority government, with the Joint List heading the opposition – and thus privy to all state and military secrets.
Hendel and Hauser gave Lapid bad heartburn. But Gantz’s decision to engage in talks with Netanyahu was too much for him to bear. Rather than accept that the situation is complicated, Lapid jumped ship and split from the party. He did this along with MK Moshe (Bogie) Ya’alon and others whose loathing for Netanyahu takes precedence over all else. Including coronavirus.
IRONICALLY, IF the current coalition deal goes through, Lapid (now head of the Yesh Atid-Telem faction) will become the leader of the opposition – a position that he would have been happy to hand to Joint List leader Ayman Odeh if it meant toppling Bibi.
Which brings us to his newfound antipathy toward Gantz. Or perhaps it’s just enmity that’s been bubbling beneath the surface for longer than he or his buddies have deigned to admit. Until now, that is, when they’re letting it rip without restraint.
In a press conference on Tuesday, Lapid excoriated his former “anybody-but-Bibi” partner with a vengeance.
“I apologize to anyone whom I persuaded over the past year to vote for Benny Gantz and Blue and White,” he announced. “I didn’t believe your votes would be stolen.”
For emphasis, he added, “There has never been such deceit since the establishment of the state… No promise you were given will be honored. Not one.”
He conveniently left out Blue and White’s original bald-faced lie about never accepting backing – in any form – from the Joint List, which took voter theft to a whole new level. The egg on his face did not interfere with his tirade, however.
Meretz MK Yair Golan went even further on Tuesday evening. During a Channel 12 panel, he said that Blue and White made no such promise about Joint List backing before the last election. Uh, really? As it happens, Gantz and other Blue and White representatives repeated that declaration 146 times during their campaign. All on record.
In fairness, it is hard to expect any integrity from Golan, a former IDF deputy chief of staff, who took the opportunity of Holocaust Remembrance Day four years ago to suggest that Israel should atone for its own sins.
THEN THERE’S Blue and White MK Ofer Shelah from Lapid’s Yesh Atid faction, who turned on Gantz in a flash. In a Facebook post on Tuesday, Shelah ridiculed both Gantz and MK Gabi Ashkenazi (another former IDF chief-of-staff in the Blue and White “cockpit”) for being “spineless” and “flipping like omelets.”
Referring to Gantz’s visit to the White House at the end of February, when US President Donald Trump unveiled his “Deal of the Century,” Shelah wrote: “One trip to Washington and the fear that some imaginary public whose votes they wanted think differently [from them] sent them flying 180 degrees away from their basic beliefs.”
Shelah also tweeted recently that “Gantz was always weak.”
Funny he never mentioned it before. But that’s probably because he and Lapid wanted a figurehead whom they could mold in their image – a military man good at taking orders, not one who would decide to join a unity government with Netanyahu.
Former prime minister Ehud Barak, too, offered a vile take on the coalition agreement. “The stench emanating from the deal is prima facie indecent and corrupt,” he told Channel 12’s Yonit Levi on Tuesday evening. He asserted that the only plausible explanation for Gantz and Ashkenazi consenting to share a government with Netanyahu is blackmail.
Even Levi, no fan of Netanyahu’s by any means, did a double take on that one. Barak clarified that Bibi must have obtained – in an illegal fashion, of course – embarrassing or incriminating information on Gantz and Ashkenazi. According to Barak, Netanyahu threatened to expose their secrets if they did not comply. In exchange, Gantz consented to clauses in the deal that would enable Netanyahu to avoid standing trial for bribery, fraud and breach of trust, and to evade additional investigations.
In a hilarious twist, Barak said that the reason the above has to be the case is that he knows Gantz to be an honest man. But if that’s true, there should be no skeletons in his closet. Oops.
MEANWHILE, THE left-wing “black flag” demonstrators have outdone the Netanyahu camp in attacking Gantz.
At Sunday’s rally in Tel Aviv, the ostensibly 5,000-strong crowd went wild chanting about Gantz’s contribution to the death of democracy at the hands of Netanyahu. They were encouraged in their fury by none other than podium speakers Lapid, Ya’alon, Odeh and Golan – paragons of virtue scorned by their puppet. Which is why the media made sure to spread the fake news that everyone in attendance strictly adhered to the two-meter social-distance rule.
What reporting of the event did not reflect was the will of the less visible, more responsible majority. As the Channel 13 survey released two days later revealed, a good 57% of Blue and White voters – and a whopping 80% of their Likud counterparts – favor Gantz’s move. Though painful for sufferers of “anybody-but-Bibi” syndrome, this is certainly not a symptom of democracy’s decline. Just ask Gantz, who suddenly has ceased warning against its demise.