Encountering Peace: The unlikely possible scenario

As long as Netanyahu is not cleared of all charges, from the clear moral point of view, he should not be allowed to rule Israel.

BENNY GANTZ : His government would only have to last until Netanyahu is indicted (photo credit: REUTERS)
BENNY GANTZ : His government would only have to last until Netanyahu is indicted
(photo credit: REUTERS)
It should be no surprise to the readers of this column that as unlikely as it is, I hope that there will be a new center-left government led by Benny Gantz.
Even if that government is a minority government which is supported from the outside by the Joint List, and Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu abstains, in a matter of a few months that new government could set Israel on a new and must desired course. It would be the beginning of a correction course resetting Israel’s path toward peace within the country, especially regarding Jewish-Arab relations. It would be a course correction in once again presenting an outstretched hand to our Palestinian neighbors. And it would be a correction course in setting parameters for equality and equal opportunities for the entire Israeli society, without incitement against any part of the society.
What’s in it for Liberman? If he and his party colleagues are serious about their stated agenda, a new center-left government could deliver on all of his secular demands: public transportation on Shabbat, the reform mandatory IDF military service draft law that was the stated reason for bringing down the last two Knessets, core curricula for all schools, keeping grocery and convenience stores in secular areas open on Shabbat, and almost anything else Liberman would want.
The Joint List would support the government because Gantz’s first phone call would be to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to renew the belief that peace on the basis of two states for two peoples is once again possible. Then Gantz would call Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Jordanian King Abdullah to call for a regional summit together with Abbas to renew negotiations and peaceful relations. Furthermore, the new government would either amend the Nation-State Law or abolish it and pass a Citizens Equality Law based on the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel.
The ultra-Orthodox parties would without doubt have the greatest fears about these possibilities, but the new government could provide reassurances by including in the new state budget aboveboard funding with benchmarks for parity and equality for all schools – including haredi schools from all streams, Arab schools and periphery schools – with an emphasis on providing additional equalization funds for those schools in all communities that have been left behind in recent years. Immediate plans for dealing with the housing crisis, especially for young couples, including young haredi couples, could be addressed in the new budget.
A settlement building freeze, perhaps with the exception of Betar Illit and Modi’in Illit, could be set, enabling resources that today are spent beyond the security barrier to be spent inside of Israel in the communities with the greatest needs.
A social network could begin to be rebuilt, including investment for public housing and an immediate infusion of resources into the health system.
All of this could be done by resetting priorities and making the necessary budgetary adjustments.
BUT EVEN if such a government were established, it would not last long. A minority government can stay in power as long as 61 members of Knesset don’t support a vote of no confidence. A military flare-up from the north or from Gaza could easily bring down the government. Gantz and Blue White would not feel very comfortable remaining in such a government, and from the point of view of the so-called democratic will of the people, the government should have a majority of support from the elected Knesset.
From the point of view of the centralist camp led by Blue and White, the government has to last only until Benjamin Netanyahu is indicted, as is expected. At that point, public opinion would force Netanyahu to stand down, at least until he could clear himself of all charges of corruption. Once Netanyahu is out of the picture, Gantz and his team would probably invite the Likud to join the government and to replace Labor and the Democratic Union with a so-called national-unity government. It may seem far-fetched, but in fact it may be the only way that Gantz can form a government and become prime minister.
As long as Netanyahu is not cleared of all charges, from the clear moral point of view, he should not be allowed to rule Israel. In fact, any suspected public servant with charges of corruption against him should be forced out of office. Moreover, the suspected public servant should not have to be forced out; he should resign on his own. In a self-respecting democracy a public servant who was convicted of a crime against the public should not be allowed to serve as a public servant, for the rest of his life – not only for a period of seven years. Netanyahu must not return as leader of this country, as long as he has not proven his complete innocence. There are many other reasons Netanyahu should not continue to lead Israel, but those are matters of political beliefs, values and performance, and can be legitimately debated and argued within a democracy. The issues concerning the alleged criminal behavior of the prime minister should be beyond debate.
The single most significant reason that has prevented the creation of the so-called national-unity government is the refusal of Netanyahu to stand down until clearing the suspicions. The attorney-general will probably not issue the indictments against Netanyahu within the next 28 days allotted to Gantz to form a government. In that case, our best option is to move forward with the scenario described above. It is possible, it is legitimate and, from my point of view, it is the best possible outcome from the recent elections.
The writer is a political and social entrepreneur who has dedicated his life to the State of Israel and to peace between Israel and her neighbors. His latest book, In Pursuit of Peace in Israel and Palestine, was published by Vanderbilt University Press.