The government cannot be reliant on the Joint List’s support

Despite Gantz’s preelection statements that he would not form a government with the Joint List his desire to end Netanyahu’s era is leading Blue and White into dark places.

Joint List leader Ayman Odeh casts his ballot together with his sons in Haifa last week. (photo credit: AMMAR AWAD / REUTERS)
Joint List leader Ayman Odeh casts his ballot together with his sons in Haifa last week.
(photo credit: AMMAR AWAD / REUTERS)
The March 2020 election results again did not lead to any political stability, and, unfortunately, it seems the political stalemate is here to stay. Although the right-wing bloc (Likud, Shas, United Torah Judaism and Yamina) won 58 seats compared to 55 in the September election, it did not achieve a majority of 61 Knesset members.
Thus, an actual victory for the right-wing bloc headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not been obtained. In addition, the center-left bloc led by Blue and White leader Benny Gantz actually shrank in the number of seats compared to the September election to 40 from 44, which emphasizes the Jewish public’s distrust of Gantz’s leadership and his ability to serve as prime minister.
Practically, the fear that Gantz would form a minority government supported by the Joint List from the outside led soft right-wing voters (2-3 seats) to transfer their support from Blue and White to Likud in the 2020 election.
Nevertheless, while Netanyahu can form a government only if unity emerges between Likud and Blue and White, or whether Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Liberman decides to return to the right-wing bloc, which seems unlikely, Gantz has the theoretical option to form a minority government with the support of the Joint List.
Unfortunately, this outcome is no longer just a theoretical scenario. Despite Gantz’s preelection statements that he would not form a government with the Joint List, or alternatively a government that would be reliant on outside support, his desire to end Netanyahu’s era is seemingly leading Blue and White’s chairman into dark political districts.
Thus, if Gantz decides to establish a government with the support of the Joint list, not only will he mislead his electorate, but he will endanger the security of the Jewish state. In essence, in a situation in which Gantz’s government’s existence depends on the votes of the Joint List’s MKs, which include figures who deny the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state (some of them even openly supported Palestinian terrorism), its prime minister, Gantz, might execute crucial decisions that would not be beneficial for Israel’s security interest.
In that dreadful scenario, prime minister Gantz would constantly face the dilemma between safeguarding Israel’s security interests (such as assault in the Gaza Strip in response to rocket fire and preventing improved weapon-transfers to Hezbollah from Iran) and its own government’s political survival.
It is mandatory to note that the problem is not with Arab society, but with its current extreme political leadership in the Knesset. In fact, the Arab public has come a long way in the last three election campaigns. In the April 2019 election, the turnout among the Arab public (not including the Druze) was only 50%, and more than 80% of Arabs voted for the Arab alliances of Hadash-Ta’al and Ra’am-Balad.
Yet, the September 2019 elections led to a turnaround among the Arab public, as both its turnout and support for the Joint List increased to 61% and 90% respectively. As a result, the Joint List strengthened its power in the Knesset from 10 to 13 seats.
This trend was further enhanced in the March 2020 election, in which the Arab voters’ turnout climbed to 67%, and the support for the Joint List increased to 95%, a figure that led to a heyday of 15 seats in the Knesset for the Joint List.
On the one hand, these figures indicate a worrying trend among the Arab public, who chooses to vote for a political alliance that contains legislators who deny the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state and who praise Palestinian terrorism, call IDF soldiers war criminals and compare the government led by Netanyahu to the leadership of Nazi Germany.
On the other hand, the increased turnout among the Arab public has also a very positive aspect, as it clearly illustrates that the Arab society is ready and willing to participate in the political arena in Israel, hoping that its leadership will join the decision-making circle.
However, it seems that the Joint List must go a long way before it becomes a legitimate partner in any government. In the current situation, neither morally nor from a security aspect, the State of Israel cannot afford the establishment of a government dependent on the support of MKs who oppose the existence of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state and simultaneously support the enemies of the Jewish people.
It does not mean that the Arabs are disqualified from serving in the government. On the contrary, the Arab leadership must be a substantial part of the decision-making process in Israel. In that sense, it would be beneficial if a new Israeli-Arab party would be formed, one that would deal with domestic affairs and act for the prosperity of the Israeli-Arab public, and not undermine the existence of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state and support its enemies.
In conclusion, the establishment of a central-left government led by Gantz with the outside support of the Joint List would be an act of national irresponsibility by Blue and White’s leadership. To prevent such a catastrophic situation, the leaders of the Zionist parties from all across the political spectrum must demonstrate national and political responsibility.
Israel needs a national-unity government headed by Likud and Blue and White, one that is able to lead the Jewish state in the face of the enormous challenges facing it, both domestically and externally. Forming a minority government with the support of the Joint List will definitely obtain just the opposite.

Christian Kaunert is a professor of Policing and Security, director of the International Centre for Policing and Security at the University of South Wales, and Jean Monnet Chair of EU counterterrorism.
Ori Wertman is a PhD candidate and research assistant at the International Centre for Policing and Security at the University of South Wales.