MK Benny Gantz can boycott Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government or complain about it, but he can’t do both.
For more than four years, Gantz and other opposition leaders have insisted that they would not join a coalition with a “prime minister under indictment.”
There are two problems with that policy.
The first is that after more than seven years of investigations into alleged wrongdoing and a trial that has been ongoing for three years and counting, the key case against Netanyahu is unraveling – and this without a single defense witness having been called to the stand.
The state of the trial was revealed in June 2023 when the three distinguished Jerusalem District Court judges hearing the case informed the prosecution that it would be “very difficult to establish the bribery charge against Netanyahu.”
It emerged that the very charge that had sparked national turmoil – leading to five senseless rounds of Knesset elections and hindering the momentum of Mideast peace brought about by the historic Abraham Accords – does not hold water.
Let that sink in for a moment.
The second problem with the opposition’s boycott of Netanyahu is that the voters grew as weary of it as they were distrustful of the indictments. Fully informed of all the charges against him, the lion’s share of the public gave Netanyahu and the parties that would end up as his coalition partners a solid parliamentary majority of 64 out of 120 seats.
Rather than spurring Gantz and company to reconsider their intransigent stance and attempt, for the good of the country, to become a part of Netanyahu’s coalition-in-formation, they chose to opt out and to whine about the one that he did forge.
Worse, they dusted off an old mantra used for years by Netanyahu’s detractors at home and abroad – that the government is “the most extreme in Israel’s history.” Indeed, there is nothing new in that label. In a 2009 op-ed in Foreign Policy, for instance, former Israeli peace negotiator Daniel Levy referred to Netanyahu’s government as “the most right-wing… in Israel’s history.” In a 2013 piece for the Daily Beast, journalist Ali Gharib wrote that Israel had “just sworn in perhaps its most right-wing government ever.” In 2014, Jeffrey Heller of Reuters stated that Netanyahu was “well-positioned to form what would likely be the most right-wing government in Israel’s 66-year history.” In 2015, Ishaan Tharoor wrote in The Washington Post: “An 11th-hour deal on Wednesday led to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu forming the most right-wing government in his country’s history.” And in a farewell speech in 2016, then-outgoing-US Secretary of State John Kerry called Netanyahu’s coalition “the most right-wing in Israeli history, with an agenda driven by its most extreme elements.”
Other examples abound. Today’s chanting of the tired mantra is simply more of the same.
The noise has been drowning out a crucial point, however: The Israeli opposition could have become a part of the coalition, yet opted to boycott the option. And now that Netanyahu has formed a government with other parties, the opposition is complaining.
Although in Israel’s vibrant democracy it is legitimate to simultaneously boycott and complain, after 33 weeks of protests, it’s time for Gantz and his gang to reach a candid compromise with the government.
The writer is a former head of the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism’s office in Washington and a senior analyst at Acumen Risk Ltd., a risk management firm.