Benny Gantz's hour - opinion

Benny Gantz must enter into talks with the coalition based on the president's outline. By doing so he will show leadership in moments of national crisis, with the good of the country in mind.

 Israelis block a road and clash with police as they protest against the Israeli government's planned judicial overhaul, in Tel Aviv, March 1, 2023 (photo credit: TOMER NEUBERG/FLASH90)
Israelis block a road and clash with police as they protest against the Israeli government's planned judicial overhaul, in Tel Aviv, March 1, 2023
(photo credit: TOMER NEUBERG/FLASH90)

Against the background of the increasing extremism surrounding the legal reform, Benny Gantz must show leadership and enter into talks with the coalition based on the president's outline. If he does so, he will go down in history as someone who revealed himself as a responsible leader in moments of national crisis, with the good of the country in mind. He will also discover that the majority of the public, averse to extremism, knows how to reward leaders who strive for broad national recognition.

Many of the prominent figures who have taken an active part in organizing the protests against the legal reform are figures who have lost their political relevance. Nevertheless, they do not shy from harsh and dangerous language. Ehud Barak, Bogi Ya'alon, Yair Golan, Ron Huldai ("Dictatorships only become democratic again with bloodshed. This is the history of mankind" and Ehud Olmert (" The demonstrations ... are the preliminary stage before the beginning of the real protest that will eventually break out by and will trample all the fences and get to the point") - all present radical and violent positions. A statement along the lines of "The change will not take place with the help of speeches; there is not a person here who does not understand the meaning of the changes the government is trying to bring about. What is needed is to move to the next stage - the war stage" speaks for itself.

These are serious statements that call for destruction.

I suspect this is the desperate way for those "formers" to be relevant again after being kicked out of the political system. A healthy country should have healthy mechanisms to thwart this deadly way. We cannot allow destructive elements among us to consume their anger and frustration on the country.

Honestly, does the judicial system reform, with the required amendments, justify the destruction of a country from within? A country where tens of thousands of its best citizens sacrificed their lives so that we, our children and grandchildren, could live, develop and prosper? Does the reform justify destroying a glorious state that unites and unifies all Diaspora Jewry? Will a dispute that is another one of the difficult and complex disputes we had (and will have) break us apart and divide us?

What is needed is conciliatory, unifying, and bridging leadership

These manifestations of extremism, in difficult days of extreme internal tension, raise the question of when the moderates will finally decide to make their voices heard. These are trying  days for political leadership, in which a conciliatory, unifying, and bridging leadership is required that knows how to connect the extremes and work to maximize the common good in Israeli society. The big question is whether such a leader will be found from among the opposition and whether any of its leaders know how to pick up the gauntlet, respond to President Herzog's initiative, and willingly enter into negotiations with the coalition to formulate a compromise on the legal reform that the Israeli public will widely accept.

When you think of the gallery of personalities that exists today in the opposition, the name of one person who may be able to get out of the problematic position of fruitless opposition and sit at the negotiating table to formulate a broad national consensus immediately comes to mind. This is MK and former Minister of Defense Benny Gantz, the chairman of the State Camp (HaMachaneh HaMamlachti) .

Gantz has the necessary qualities for this: moderation, statesmanship and  the absence of extremism. He has already proven that he is ready to go against the flow and make moves he perceives as right for the country. Despite the disappointment he experienced among his electorate, he did not give up; he appeared again for the voter test and strengthened his power from one election to the next. This shows that there is a demand for the type of leadership offered by Gantz, and the fact that he is gaining strength in the polls proves this.

Gantz always spoke about the need to put Israel first, and I believe this is not just an election slogan to him. His choice of the party’s name, "The State Camp,” is also not accidental. It reflects his character and his worldview. Therefore, Gantz must rise to the occasion. He must demonstrate leadership at a time when it is most needed.

I did not know Gantz until he entered politics, nor did I vote for him. But at the time when I was at the head of the struggle to transfer the intelligence units of the IDF to the Negev, a project of enormous economic significance, which self-interested parties tried to sabotage, Gantz, as the Minister of Defense, revealed himself at the time in his full leadership capacity when he resisted the pressure of then-Chief of Staff Kochavi and ordered the frozen project to be promoted. Gantz proved that the good of the country as a whole was before his eyes, and he understood the crucial importance of the project for the future of the Negev.

Since then, I have had a warm respect and appreciation for him. But I believe he has not yet demonstrated a decisive degree of self-confidence and leadership. He has tended to be dragged along by powerful forces, including public opinion in the leftist camp.

The current situation is his supreme leadership test. If he knows how to reach out to the camp that supports the reform and reach agreements - he will achieve greatness in one hour. If he fails - he is doomed to live in the shadows of others for a long time to come and even suffer from their attempts to dwarf him and his image. “There is no person who does not have their hour," is said in Mishnah Avot (4:3), and it is to be hoped that Gantz's hour has come.

Completing the job based on a fair compromise

Parliamentary democracy is built on agreement, compromise, and a constant need to build consensus. In a society as divided as ours, not so much. Only strengthening these principles will reduce the tangible threat to our cohesion - the danger of internal disintegration.

And it must be said that if you neutralize the loud and noisy voices of what is defined as a protest against the reform, you find that the majority of the Israeli public supports a compromise that will bring balance to the separation of powers system in Israel.

After all, over the past 30 years, many have agreed, both on the right and on the left, that comprehensive legal reform is required. I agree with the opinion of many, including Prof. Yadida Stern and Prof. Yuval Elbashan, who believe that the differences are not that great between the parties, perhaps except for the issue of the committee for the selection of judges.

Agreement on the principles of the legal reform will promote regime stability because it will establish basic regime arrangements, including the interrelationships between the authorities - the legislature, the executive, and the judiciary. Clear and stable rules of decision are essential for Israeli society.

The founding fathers left us an unsolved problem of a country without a constitution, but also a not-bad solution in the form of basic laws that form the skeleton of the constitution. We must complete the work with broad consensus.

Perfecting agreements and increasing listening and mutual tolerance

Israeli society needs, more than ever, the refinement of agreements and increased listening and mutual tolerance. The internal tension in Israeli society surrounding legal reform is already taking its toll. On the other hand, today in Israel, there is a deep longing for an internal arrangement based on compromise, around which we can all live together and face external threats. Today’s central question is how to live together despite the different values without becoming a divided, torn, and polarized society.

Leadership is tested in the ability to recognize what is for the good of the people during trying times. The people are not interested in division and polarization but understand that the time has come for legal reform and indicated this only recently. The majority of the public abhors extremism and the destruction that comes with it. Therefore, whoever strives for an outline of a compromise will, in the end, also receive a political reward from the majority of the voters.

This may be Benny Gantz's finest hour.

I call on Gantz to show leadership, courage and daring. In a place without people, there must be a person, as stated in Tractate Avot. This sentence teaches that in a place where no one knows or can perform the right action, the person must make an effort, fill the void and act appropriately.

Benny Gantz, I call you in the name of many people: take up the gauntlet!

The author is the chairman of the association "Israel for the Negev."