Olmert to 'Post': What was Benny Gantz really thinking?

An atmosphere has been created of a mass fear from thousands dying and the loss of livelihood. No less. There is no other way to understand Netanyahu’s conduct but in such terms.

PEOPLE PROTEST against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv.  (photo credit: REUTERS)
PEOPLE PROTEST against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The opening clause to the coalition agreement to form the proposed government, to be called “an emergency government of
national unity,” is based on the fallacy that the State of Israel is in a crisis that justifies a formal declaration of a state of emergency.
There is no reason for such an emergency situation, and certainly no justification to define such a future government, which will probably be sworn in if and when the legal changes the agreement signed between Likud and Blue and White are approved as an emergency government.
It is highly likely that extreme measures will have to be taken to save Israel’s economy and the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of bread-winners. This is not because of the emergency situation but because of the extreme panic generated by the current government’s response to the pandemic and the damage its policies caused to the nation’s economy.
In contrast to the overblown drama created by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in his “Panic Theater,” the real scope of the coronavirus in Israel is very different from the artificially manufactured fears. At the time of this writing, Israel has had fewer than 15,000 confirmed patients.
Some 140 patients from this group are in serious condition, out of which approximately 120 are on ventilators. To date, the coronavirus  has caused the deaths of around 200 people in Israel.
There is no need to remind anyone that we are all sensitive to the potential damage from the virus spreading,and that there is valid justification to take cautious, preventive steps against the disease. But to say that the spread of COVID-19 is the worst crisis  xperienced by humanity since “the Middle Ages,” as Netanyahu said during his televised speech; to speak about one million confirmed patients in Israel alone at the end of April and more than 10,000 fatalities is not a mistake or an exaggeration or a lack of precision - it is much worse.
The actual number of currently confirmed patients in Israel is roughly 1.5% of the figure Netanyahu cited on television, and the number of
fatalities is about 1.8% of what the prime minister predicted.
As I said, these figures are not mistaken or exaggerated. He who tosses them aside as part of a planned, focused, systematic and long-term effort, desires with full awareness to sow anxiety, panic and a sensation of being at our wit’s end.
An atmosphere has been created of a mass fear from thousands dying and the loss of livelihood. No less. There is no other way to understand Netanyahu’s conduct but in such terms.
A man whom some claim has some knowledge about world history called this the hardest crisis humanity has faced since the Middle Ages: As if the world did not witness in the past century alone two world wars that claimed the lives of tens of millions; as if the Holocaust, remembered this week on Holocaust Remembrance Day, did not happen; as if cases of genocide in which millions of innocent people in Africa were slain did not occur; as if earthquakes, tsunamis, typhoons and tornadoes that claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people never happened.
ARE ALL these insignificant when compared to the coronavirus crisis? During the Holocaust Remembrace Day event at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, Netanyahu - with a lack of sensitivity bordering on mental confusion - said that unlike the Holocaust, we were able to spot the coronavirus in time.
Is there anyone who thinks this was a mistake, some hyperbole, an exaggeration that could have been skipped over? No, this is the result of a man led to madness, a man whose stability and resilience to pressure is doubtful.
This is combined with a deep sense of dread that his life’s goal, the destination he strove for, the cause for which he lived, all might collapse if he loses his grip on the helm of power.One cannot avoid this assumption,because only when it is accepted can one understand the new coalition agreement, its details, its radical exaggeration and moral disregard that are woven through its various clauses, binding them together.
For starters, the agreement offers no unity. There is a solid basis of mutual distrust in it. Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz and MK Gabi Ashkenazi do not believe any obligation, promise or understanding made with Netanyahu. They see him as a con man, cheater and shyster who never honored any promise or obligation that might reduce even a fraction of his status or honor, or that of his family members.
He who believes his fellow, even in a political life typically marked by turbulence and lack of certainty, does not make a deal on which its condition for being honored is the passing of a unique personal law meant to ensure the position of prime minister and the person meant to take it over.This is the condition under which the two will assume their offices, including their lodgings and expenses. Such an agreement is signed only with crooks.
In this case I do not attribute cheating or lack of decency to Gantz or Ashkenazi. I attribute other weaknesses to them. I will not display any favoritism or attempt to mask how great a disappointment and pain their behavior caused.
The foundation of the agreement is not unity. The essence of it is not the nation. What does this nascent government have that makes it into a national one? It is a normal coalition of a few parties that, against the tradition of coalition deals, offers a party with 17 Knesset members between 16 and 18 ministers, making its weight in government equal to a bloc composed of 59 Knesset members. In
other words, this government will have from 32 to 36 ministers, in addition to 16 deputy ministers.
This is a twisted, ridiculous and impossible structure. What is included in the other sections of the agreement does not matter, nor does the hyper-pedantic measuring of how positions will be divided among the various parties and blocs. In the end, there is no political technology I am aware of - and I was involved with the creation of some governments in the past four decades - that can sustain
such a twisted, strange and ill-devised structure as this agreement offers.
Having said all that, I might have proposed to look kindly on this embarrassing agreement if its oddities were limited to the mechanisms
of how roles in government and Knesset are divided.But this coalition agreement deals with two other issues that might explain why Netanyahu and his cohort of servants were so eager to sign it.
First, it gives Netanyahu the option to decide on a unilateral annexation of some of the West Bank, according to the guidelines suggested by US President Donald Trump in his “Deal of the Century.”
Blue and White members are not obligated to vote in favor of such a decision, but if the government approves it and the Knesset signs it
into law, such an annexation will happen with the backing of Gantz and Ashkenazi even if they voted against it. The decisions made by government are made in shared responsibility by all its members, and a law backed by a government is made in a process of which all its members are a part, even if some do not support the law being passed.
Gantz and Ashkenazi paved the way to a unilateral annexation of territory in the West Bank, when a reasonable evaluation shows that such a step will likely be met by Palestinian violence and an extreme diplomatic reaction by both Egypt and Jordan concerning their peace agreements with Israel.
It is also likely that European nations and other countries will see such an Israeli decision, even if backed expressively or silently by a
US president facing elections that will determine his political fate, as an extreme provocation that will produce hostile and damaging reactions against Israel. Yet the worse outcome of such a step would be the destruction, perhaps the complete destruction, of a chance to promote a negotiation for peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
Such a step will not be a mistake; it will be a criminally adventurous step that may cause irreparable strategic damage to the country. I doubt Netanyahu himself truly would have wanted to be dragged into making it.
However, it is known that he believes few things. I regret to say that there are obvious reasons why the good of the country, as understood by nine prime ministers to serve since 1967, is not on his mind.
Prime ministers Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Shamir and Yitzhak Rabin, not to mention others, never thought of taking the one-sided step
of annexing West Bank land (though they did annex parts near Jerusalem, despite most of them not being part of the Jewish history of that city), because they knew the result of such a step may be a calamity for Israel.
Netanyahu, even if he understands it - and one could argue that in the past decade he avoided making such steps - is able to make such steps due to his nature, character, weaknesses and desires, no matter the cost to the country.
What about Gantz and Ashkenazi? Are they able, with a clear mind, to place Israel’s most vital national interests at stake when faced with such political adventuring? Have they, too, lost their minds?
If they are essentially in favor of one-sided annexation, it is odd they did not say so in the past three elections campaigns. The truth is very different. During their years in the IDF, during their leadership of Blue and White and during these campaigns, they rejected one-sided moves and supported peace negotiations with the Palestinians based on the known conditions for such a dialogue. Did something happen last month that justifies the withdrawal from such a responsible stand and adopting the messianic madness of radical
right-wing adventurism? Is this the fault of the coronavirus?
In addition to all this, the agreement also touches upon the Judicial Selection Committee. Here one needs a lively imagination to understand what Gantz and Ashkenazi agreed to.
For more than a year, both men said they would not sit in coalition with a prime minister who is under criminal investigations. Then they
vowed, no matter what, they would not sit in government with a prime minister accused of criminal offenses. At the end of the day they said that a prime minister who is speaking out against the attorney-general, against the police commissioner and against the Supreme Court is unworthy of his office. Gantz, more than other members of Blue and White, was fierce and firm in expressing his position.
Now, Gantz and Ashkenazi handed the veto right over the appointment of judges to Netanyahu. Simply put, the watchdog over democracy has collapsed. The guard over the independence of the courts has shaken. The precise nature of the committee appointing judges is so detailed in the agreement, even the members from the new coalition are mentioned by name. That is a total, insulting, shameful surrender on an issue to which Blue and White said no quarters should be given, and that on this one issue everything would either stand or fall.
Well, the obligations Gantz and Ashkenazi made indeed fell, and the coalition now stands.
Without the coronavirus-induced panic, it is likely such a coalition would not have been made. One had to pave the path to it by shaping
dread and anxiety among the public. These gave Gantz and Ashkenazi the public justification to act in opposition to what they promised to do. Former prime minister Ariel Sharon said, “What can be seen from here cannot be seen from there” to explain why he acted differently in office than he did before reaching there.
On that same basis, we can say that what can be seen through the spectacles of the coronavirus pandemic cannot be seen without them. In trying to publicly support his volte-face, Gantz said there was a new situation and that he had to take this post-election reality into account. Knowing Gantz and his decency I have no doubt that he saw, and continues to see, the good of the country.
I, however, see a totally different country.