Benny Gantz's demands of Netanyahu are too little, too late

Netanyahu has not fulfilled even one single obligation that had any significance, because it had a bearing on his personal affairs.

THERE’S A REAL chance that in the upcoming election, and certainly more than in the previous elections that have taken place over the last two years, Netanyahu will be on the verge of ending his role as prime minister. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
THERE’S A REAL chance that in the upcoming election, and certainly more than in the previous elections that have taken place over the last two years, Netanyahu will be on the verge of ending his role as prime minister.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Nine months ago, when Benny Gantz and Gabi Ashkenazi flung themselves into Benjamin Netanyahu’s arms, crashing Blue and White and separating from Yesh Atid so they could help form a government like no other that has existed in the history of modern democracy, I thought they were making a big mistake. I expressed my opinion out loud and I wrote these words here in this very column. I felt like these two people, who’d spent a good portion of their lives serving on the front line during Israel’s wars protecting the Land of Israel and its inhabitants, are driven by a sense of purpose. I said that I disagreed with their decision to join forces with Bibi, and that I thought it would lead to the disintegration of our political system.
I argued that there’s no chance that Bibi will keep his promises. I emphasized that there’s an insurmountable gap between the cunning manipulations of the charlatan from Balfour Road, who has no moral standard, nothing stopping him in his crazy run to smash all the anchors provided by democracy, the rule of law, the principles of equality upon which the State of Israel is built thanks to which we are still here – and the innocence and goodwill of Gantz, Ashkenazi and their partners. Along with many other people, I thought that the Likud/Blue and White agreement was a deceptive trap that would lead the State of Israel to disaster. It’s important for me to emphasize, however, that throughout this entire period, I have supported and put my trust in Blue and White’s leaders to work in good faith toward their goals and to save our country from deteriorating.
Now, Gantz, Ashkenazi and their comrades in Blue and White are saying all the things about Bibi that were said before by myself and many others, including the tens of thousands of Israelis who participate in the weekly protests. Gantz is the one who said that Bibi isn’t interested in anything other than his own personal affairs. Blue and White members are saying that Likud is willing to let Israel’s economy collapse, because they are not willing to approve the budget as was agreed upon when the rotation agreement was signed, so that the rotation won’t need to take place.
Gantz’s people are now using every word in the lexicon as they condemn Bibi. At the end, they were no longer pretending that there was a chance that any of their expectations would come to fruition. They finally understood that everything they’d been warned about was actually happening. And now Zeev Elkin and other members of hardcore Likud say precisely the same - that Netanyahu cares only about his own personal matters and not the interest of the state.
Under these circumstances, what exactly was the topic of negotiations between Likud and Blue and White, that were led in an outstanding manner by my longtime friend, Haim Ramon?
The five demands were of course, accurate and necessary. All of Gantz’s demands were, after all, essential to the agreement he and Netanyahu signed nine months ago. Even then, it was clear to me and to any other reasonable person, and especially to anyone who was well acquainted with Netanyahu’s modus operandi, that there was absolutely no chance that Netanyahu would carry out the pledges he had committed to in the agreement, which for the first time became a law in the Book of Laws of the State of Israel after passing three readings in Knesset.
Netanyahu has not fulfilled even one single obligation that had any significance, because it had a bearing on his personal affairs. The illusion Netanyahu created nine months ago using the theatrics of the Blue and White/Likud agreement testifies to the shortsightedness of all the people who fell for it.
We must ask why Gantz waited until last week to bring up his five demands, when the chance that he would be able to fulfill them, even partially, was extremely small. Why didn’t he give Bibi an ultimatum regarding these issues months ago? Why didn’t he demand two or three months ago that if 2020 and 2021 budgets aren’t approved within two weeks, the government will be disbanded? What gave Gantz the impression that it was worthwhile for him to wait until now?
Actually, Benny isn’t the one who’s responsible for this new agenda. We must tell it as it really is. The person who is dictating the current agenda is Gideon Sa’ar. I will never vote for a party that is headed by him. Nevertheless, I’ve said in the past that Sa’ar is a worthy candidate. He’s an experienced parliamentarian, a polished politician, a skillful speaker, and he doesn’t spend all day with the make-up artist and the hair stylist so he can have his hair dyed different shades depending on the weather.
Sa’ar is, however, an extreme right-winger. More radical than Naftali Bennett, but less than Netanyahu, because Netanyahu doesn’t really fall into either the right-wing or left-wing camp. As I’ve written before, Netanyahu is devoid of any worldview other than what affects himself, his wife and his son. Everything else can be set on fire, as his third wife, Mrs. Sara Netanyahu, once exclaimed.
Sa’ar’s recent announcement that he is leaving Likud is a move that could change Israel’s political agenda in the year to come. The chance that Sa’ar will garner votes from parties that identify as centrist or Left (there aren’t many) is very small. Sa’ar’s platform is sharp, carefully worded and consistent. In contrast with Bibi, Sa’ar backs up his positions and is not tempted to change his stance according to the political climate.

THE RAMIFICATIONS of this are that each vote for Sa’ar is one less vote for Likud and Bennett. Seeing that Sa’ar has declared, pledged and sworn not to sit in a government together with Netanyahu – not below him and not next to him – and Sa’ar has a tendency to keep his promises, it’s pretty likely that Sa’ar’s list will undermine the Likud’s ability to prevail in the upcoming election.
There’s a real chance that in the upcoming election, and certainly more than in the previous elections that have taken place over the last two years, Netanyahu will be on the verge of ending his role as prime minister, and then he will finally have all the time in the world to prepare for his upcoming trial and try to prove his innocence in the usual way. It’s too early to predict what the results of these efforts will be. What is sure, though, is that Sa’ar has paved the road so that Bibi will have plenty of time to dedicate himself to his defense and we will finally be rid of him.
We’re not moving into a fourth round of elections in two years because of Benny Gantz or Blue and White. Gantz and Ashkenazi had all the means and justification to take steps that would restore them their lost dignity and place their party in a completely different starting position ahead of this inevitable election. If only they had understood then that their indulgence in the phony agreement that Bibi signed with them was useless. It’s too bad that they didn’t stand up straight, lay down their five demands and require that they be fulfilled within one or two weeks.
Although they did not do this, I do not question their honesty, fairness and seriousness of their intentions or their desire to prevent the deterioration of the principles and norms that once formed the basis of Israeli society. They failed due to weakness, laxity or an inability to stand firm in the face of the crook from Balfour and his cronies.
One doesn’t always end up paying a heavy price for playing unfairly in politics. Bibi is clear proof of this. Moreover, in some instances people can actually benefit from engaging in fraud, deception, cheating and breach of obligation. Bibi can serve as a perfect example regarding this case, too.
For showing weakness, on the other hand, punishment comes quickly. It seems to me that Gantz and Ashkenazi might end up paying an extremely heavy price for exhibiting such weakness. This is not a consolation for all those who believed in them and wished they would have shown even a little bit of determination, leadership and strength of character. Now, we’re going to be dragged into a fourth election in less than two years, the first of which took place on April 9, 2019.
In my opinion, the most likely scenario is that the royal family from Balfour Road will have to evacuate their residence, and then soon afterward we will find ourselves in a fifth election campaign, in which the political camps that will lead the State of Israel to new horizons will finally be formed.

The writer was the 12th prime minister of Israel.