Benny Gantz: This is how Israelis can end the political deadlock - opinion

We need to go out and vote and bring about a government that can roll up its sleeves and work.

 Defense Minister Benny Gantz speaks at The Jerusalem Post conference. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Defense Minister Benny Gantz speaks at The Jerusalem Post conference.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

We are all exhausted.

The State of Israel and its people are in a collective state of exhaustion, and there is a pervasive atmosphere of cynicism that I simply cannot ignore. Politicians are sending out unsolicited phone messages, billboards are once again filled with faces you may admire or despise, and most importantly, once again, billions of shekels – money that honest people work for tirelessly and give back to the state – are poured into this endless cycle of slogans and party ballots.

Yet for the fifth time, I turn to you and ask that you block out the noise. Block it out because this noise ironically serves the interests of those who simply don’t have your interests at heart. And for the fifth time, I ask, let’s not make this absurd reality our norm.

Let’s make this election our last for a solid block of four years, because we can and we should. And the risk of not doing so is a dark future, a regressive track for the Jewish state – the state many dreamed of, prayed for, died for and for which many of you uprooted your lives in your home countries, in order to build your modern versions of the Zionist dream.

Israel is precious to me. I understand the magnitude of our exhaustion but also the magnitude of this critical crossroads and I deeply believe that we can put an end to the chaos and bring Israel back on track. I am confident that “Hamachane Hamamlachti,” which we roughly translate to the National Unity Party, may be your ideological and moral home.

Even more importantly, National Unity is the party equipped to face the challenges ahead of us.

 Campaign posters in Tel Aviv for Gantz and Sa'ar'a National Unity Party, prior to the upcoming Israeli general elections, October 26, 2022.  (credit: JAMAL AWAD/FLASH90) Campaign posters in Tel Aviv for Gantz and Sa'ar'a National Unity Party, prior to the upcoming Israeli general elections, October 26, 2022. (credit: JAMAL AWAD/FLASH90)

The State of Israel is in the midst of one of the greatest political crises the Western world has known in recent decades: five elections over the course of four years, unstable coalitions, transition governments and the absence of a state budget. All of these inflict significant harm to our citizens. Amid such chaos, the State of Israel is unable to promote long-term reforms that shape our day-to-day lives – from infrastructure and transportation to childcare, education and secure budgets for our defense forces.

Israel's security threats

IN THE COMING years, we will face a series of strategic crossroads. Negotiations with Iran on a nuclear agreement might finally mature or perhaps they might collapse. Faced with the danger that Iran will go nuclear or sign an agreement that will not push Iran back, the State of Israel will have to work together with its international partners, under US leadership, in order to proactively stop Iranian progress toward a nuclear weapon.

The threats we face are both near and far.

In the Palestinian arena, a lack of enforcement and governance by the Palestinian Authority might soon lead us to a strategic turning point. While we have one eye on the groundbreaking maritime agreement signed with Lebanon, the other eye watches Hezbollah and threats on our northern borders. Moving a little farther, we share security challenges with our friends and partners in the Gulf, and we are not immune to the effects of global crises such as the war in Ukraine.

Our threats, of course, are not only external but also internal. The Israeli government shouldn’t not be dealing with its own survival but rather handling housing solutions, the cost of living, development of national infrastructure and the worrying trend of radicalization in our society. Needless to say, another election will simply be detrimental to our ability to deal with these challenges. On the flip side, an extremist government will be equally detrimental not just to progress in our society, but to problem-solving today, now.

Only a vote for the National Unity Party can change the direction in which we are moving. I believe that after the elections, if we prevent Benjamin Netanyahu from gaining 61 seats, we will succeed in forming a broad and stable government that will neither depend nor be held hostage, by the extreme ends of the political spectrum.

This future government will not include Netanyahu, a man who has done a lot for the State of Israel, but who now only serves his own interests. It will not include extremists like Itamar Ben-Gvir, who spreads incitement, or extremists like Aida Touma-Sliman, who praises terrorists. In the government I aim to build, we will find our balance in the center. The time has come for change, for balance.

I believe that during this time of exhaustion and cynicism, at this time of significant challenges in the present and for the future, we need a party that can unite the blocs and a leader who can unite our people. We require leadership with experience and professionalism, leadership with strength and determination, yet also with grace and moral values. In challenging times, we need the courage to make decisions.

Israel above all

I HAVE DEDICATED the majority of my life in service to this country. Israel, as I have said before, is precious to me. I would like to give back what I gained as a soldier, as a commander in the military, as defense minister. I have worked shoulder-to-shoulder with Israelis from every possible background. I have commanded complex military operations and met with leaders all over the world. I have promoted peace and strong ties with friends old and new – strengthening Israel’s global standing and serving our deepest diplomatic and security interests. Yet at the same time, I have also sat with soldiers who gave their all to our country and suffered injuries both physical and emotional – and have mobilized our government to address their needs.

In order for us to take proactive steps in Judea and Samaria, fight terrorism while shrinking our conflict with the Palestinians, in order for us to succeed in mobilizing the international community to pose a credible threat against Iran, in order for our veterans and elders to receive the care they deserve and for our youth to grow in a more secure and united society, in order for a massive list of budgets and reforms to be passed, the State of Israel needs an experienced leader surrounded and supported by members of Knesset who share the same motivation.

I am confident that National Unity will not only succeed in forming a government but also in leading it while addressing the issues that affect us all. Our faction has developed significant plans to address care for the elderly, restore police enforcement and governance, support new immigrants, financially support our soldiers in mandatory service, and the list goes on. Our party looks ahead decades – not just from election to election. We can bring together the ultra-Orthodox and the secular – because we all have a stake in this precious country and we all have issues that need to be addressed.

The State of Israel can get out of this loop of exhaustion. But for this to happen, we need to go out and vote, and bring about a government that can roll up its sleeves and work, work for you and work for Israel. Because Israel is and should be our first priority – above all.

The writer is defense minister and chairman of the National Unity Party.