Benny Gantz's political career is not over yet - opinion

It’s clear that the person who more than anyone else is responsible for the fact that a right-wing government could not be formed is Benny Gantz

ALTERNATE PRIME MINISTER Benny Gantz attends a cabinet meeting at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem in June. (photo credit: ABIR SULTAN/POOL/VIA REUTERS)
ALTERNATE PRIME MINISTER Benny Gantz attends a cabinet meeting at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem in June.
When Benny Gantz and Gabi Ashkenazi decided to drag the Blue and White Party into the disgraceful agreement with the crook from Balfour Street, I was disappointed and angry. The March 2020 election in Israel for the first time made it feasible to begin a series of moves that would hasten the exit of Bibi Netanyahu from the center of our lives.
This format that was created to fit the original Blue and White, which included Yesh Atid, Bogie Ya’alon and his people, was supposed to bear fruit. Meir Cohen’s candidacy for speaker of the Knesset was a suitable step. Cohen was a successful minister, and if he’d been elected speaker, he would have brought honor to the Knesset and to the people who elected him.
Although Netanyahu understood this, his opponents had a hard time digesting this truth. In practice, the role of Knesset speaker – especially in such an oppositional political reality as the one we’ve been experiencing for some time now – can dictate the public agenda and set the priorities for Israel’s political activities. In short, there are certain times when the speaker of the Knesset can elevate but also humiliate, can promote or reject moves that will shape Israeli society.
Netanyahu threatened to dissolve the Knesset if Cohen was elected. This is one of the situations in which leadership qualities are measured. Netanyahu made a threat, but it was an idle one. If Cohen had been elected speaker, Netanyahu would have had to come to terms with arrangements and concessions that ran contrary to his previous positions. The political reality would have changed and all of the developments we’ve all been dragged into would have taken a turn. In the moment of truth, when their leadership skills, determination and perhaps even callousness were called for, Gantz and Ashkenazi failed the test.
Some people believe otherwise. They claim that Yoaz Handel and Zvi Hauser didn’t really intend to go up against Bibi, and would not have supported a law prohibiting someone who was facing criminal charges to be allowed to form a government.
I have a heavy heart when I think about Hendel and Hauser. In my opinion, there was no justification for including them in Blue and White’s list in the first place. They didn’t fit the Blue and White mold. Yesh Atid faction members should have opposed letting the two of them join Blue and White, even if it meant letting go of Bogie Ya’alon. His contribution to Blue and White was limited from the get-go.
Hendel and Hauser surely knew that their joining Blue and White was unusual, and that their electoral contribution was negligible, though they of course would probably disagree. However, a cursory examination of voting patterns of the people who voted for Blue and White, especially in areas that show strong support for right-wing parties, shows that Blue and White failed to receive support.
Hendel and Hauser were right-wingers who never hid their positions. So how did they end up joining a list that did not support right-wing values? Why didn’t this contradiction bother them or harm their integrity among voters?
They have yet to answer these questions, even though this is mostly crying over spilled milk. There are so many events that took place which were more important and caused despair. The Hendel/Hauser affair is not a central issue, even if it is extremely annoying since it involved two talented individuals who I believe care about their public image.
This is why they’ve now joined Gideon Sa’ar, which is much better fit for them. Sa’ar is a right-wing radical who has strong ideological views and lots of integrity. Handel and Hauser are natural partners for Sa’ar. Let’s not forget that the first promise Sa’ar made was that he would not sit in a government with Netanyahu, either below or above him. Hendel and Hauser share this same commitment, and I believe all three of them mean what they’re saying.
Precisely because of this, Gantz’s and Ashkenazi’s blunder disrupted the plan for their party to wrest control of the Knesset by having their guy chosen as speaker, and then enacting a law prohibiting someone who is facing criminal charges to be allowed to form a government, which Handel and Hauser supported.
IN THIS COLUMN, I proclaimed my support for Blue and White in the weeks preceding each of the last three elections in Israel. I explained that the right thing to do was to form a list that would win more seats than Likud, and that this was the only way to bring about a change in Israel’s leadership.
Blue and White, in its strange composition, never missed an opportunity to make a bad decision, which cost them quite a few votes. This happened despite the fact that they were up against an unrestrained crook who hasn’t hesitated to use improper, reckless and corrupt means to make sure he wins. The Likud failed to achieve the minimum number of seats necessary to form a right-wing government.
Even today, after reviewing all of the events and developments, it’s clear that the person who more than anyone else is responsible for the fact that a right-wing government could not be formed is Benny Gantz. It’s true that he is also responsible for the fact that Bibi didn’t get punched in the face as he deserved when he joined him instead of hitting him with all the political strength he had.
On the other hand, if it weren’t for Benny Gantz, Blue and White would not have been created, there wouldn’t have been a political party to stand up against Likud, and Bibi would have easily formed a government two years ago. The person whose decision hampered Bibi’s abilities was Benny Gantz.
On January 29, 2019, Benny Gantz declared the establishment of the Israel Resilience Party. Everything that has taken place since then started at that moment, when Gantz had the courage to take charge. All of the “heroes” who are now blaming him are saying that Gantz is not showing courage, determination and strength.
The truth is that Gantz displayed more courage than anyone else during the moment that brought about such a dramatic change in Israeli politics. All of the other “heroes” followed after him. No one else showed the courage to be the first to become exposed like Gantz did. All these people complaining that Gantz is not being courageous now are forgetting how strong he was at that moment. I cannot and do not want to forget this.
I want to make myself clear. I am not attempting to exonerate Gantz and his partners from the tragic and monumental mistake they made when they joined forces with Netanyahu and agreed to Gantz being the alternate prime minister. There’s no need to elaborate here all the ways this dreadful government was inadequate and ineffective. Gantz does it better than anyone else.
Gantz had to discover the truth the hard way, even though we have been warning about it from the beginning. Everything Gantz said about Netanyahu when Gantz was promising not to join or cooperate with Netanyahu was true. What a shame that Gantz only uncovered these truths after he made the mistake that led to dismantling of the largest political camp that stood behind and beside him, and disappointed hundreds of thousands of supporters who had put their trust in him and his partners.
Having said all of this, I still refuse to join the mudslinging festival in which Gantz is the central player. Even the harshest of his critics claim that he is a decent person and that even when he did err, he did so in good faith and believing that he was doing the right thing for the State of Israel, and not looking out for himself, his wife or children or his own personal or legal interests.
How many senior Israeli politicians can we say this about?
I think it’s a bit premature to prepare a eulogy for Gantz. He’s still alive and kicking, and I expect he will hang around for a bit longer. He might never become prime minister, but he just may be the one to garner enough votes to make him the decisive factor in the next election, when Bibi will finally be spending his time in the courtroom as he should be, and we can all go back to building our country and providing Israeli citizens a reason to hope.
The writer was the 12th prime minister of Israel.