Think About It: Immunity versus ‘anyone but Bibi’

Members of the coalition can only complain that the opposition offers no clear alternatives.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a cabinet meeting, December 2019. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a cabinet meeting, December 2019.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
On the surface, the elections for the 23rd Knesset on March 2, are about whether:
1) Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should receive immunity so that it will not be possible to try him on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust. He will consequently be able to continue to lead the country for years to come, since he is, according to his supporters and devotees, the best Prime Minister Israel has ever had,” or
2) Netanyahu should be ousted from the premiership at almost any cost, not only because of the serious charges brought against him, but also because of his mode of conduct in recent years resulting from his legal predicament. This caused serious (hopefully reparable) damage to the cohesion of Israeli society on one hand, and the State of Israel as a democratic state on the other. The state of the Jewish people is comprised of the whole of the Jewish people, not just that part of it that supports Netanyahu himself, the ideology of Greater Israel and Jewish life as dictated by the Orthodox Jewish law.
Of course, the elections are about much more that this rather simplistic outline of the positions of the two political camps.
It is said that in the two election campaigns that took place in 2019, and the one that is about to commence, no one has talked about the “real” issues that bedevil Israel. These include: poverty among the ultra-Orthodox, the Arabs, certain sections of the Mizrahi population in the periphery of the country and of Tel Aviv, and certain parts of population that came from the former Soviet Union; growing gaps between the wealthy and the poor, the well educated and the poorly educated, the advanced and sophisticated economy and the third-world economy; the deterioration of public health services while expensive private services thrive; the lack of coordination between the various planning authorities in the fields of infrastructure and housing construction; and the future of Israel’s relations with the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Actually, it is not that nobody talks about these issues. The media is full of documentaries and talk shows that deal with them, and individual politicians attack their political rivals over them. Of course, it is easier for the opposition to attack members of the coalition, which is responsible for the running of the executive branch, for what is done or neglected, and what is done well or done badly.
Members of the coalition can only complain that the opposition offers no clear alternatives, although they insinuate that a Blue and White-led government will relinquish territories, appoint a former Histadrut chairman (a “socialist” – may the All-merciful protect us – as minister of finance, and appoint members of the United Arab List to senior ministerial positions. Blue and White supplies limp apologetic replies; they don’t really have clear programs or plans for anything.
But neither does the Likud have a clear program, for that matter. It has been a long time since the Likud presented an election platform, and if you were to ask Netanyahu what the overall policy of the 34th Government was, he would be unable to give a coherent reply, since his government’s policy was the sum total of a hotchpotch of activities initiated by his ministers, with no or minimal coordination among them, a foreign policy that he himself initiated without much input from professionals, and a general onslaught on the law enforcement bodies and gatekeepers, whom he felt were acting against him. Even his government’s defense policy could not always be clearly defined.
A legitimate question is whether the “just not Bibi” banner attached to Blue and White for lack of a clear platform signifies anything more than getting Netanyahu out of the residence on Balfour Street, or whether one may assume that it also means a negation of at least part of what he professes to believe in, although on many issues he has reversed his position at since 1996, for example, whether a PM should serve only two terms, whether a PM under investigation on criminal charges ought to resign, whether the rule of law is an important pillar of democracy, and his general pattern of conduct, both in his private life and in the public sphere.
If Benny Gantz assumes the premiership, I wonder whether we will see him host billionaires who are expected to supply the Gantz family with expensive beverages, tobacco products, jewelry, suits and the likes. I doubt whether as prime minister he would insist on snatching the limelight from the Speaker of the Knesset at the official Independence Day ceremony; whether he will befriend foreign leaders whose democratic credentials are dodgy; whether he will systematically undermine the work and independence of the Knesset; whether he will appoint as state comptroller a man who believes that government bodies and agencies should be praised rather criticized and admonished, and ministers whose only qualification is their willingness to blindly serve his own personal interests.
I don’t expect a government led by Gantz to carry out a social democratic economic policy, but I do believe that its policy will be much more social-minded. I don’t expect a government led by Gantz to boycott US President Donald Trump, but I do expect it to try to mend relations with the Democratic Party, and more importantly, to mend relations with liberal Jews in the US, who constitute at least 70% of American Jewry. I don’t expect a government led by Gantz to boycott the ultra-Orthodox parties or refuse to take them into the coalition, but I do expect it to ensure that an ultra Orthodox minister of health (if such will be appointed) will not dare vacate part of a ward in Hadassah hospital just because the wife of the Rabbi of Gur is hospitalized there, or act to prevent the extradition of an ultra-Orthodox female pedophile to Australia to stand trial.
I have no idea what sort of policy will be carried out by Gantz’s government regarding the West Bank and Gaza Strip, but I am sure that it will not implement any unilateral moves that are in breach of international law, will not encourage Jewish settlement activities outside the Jewish settlement blocs in Judea and Samaria, and trust the three former Chiefs of Staff who lead Blue and White to have at least as much military experience and understanding as Captain Netanyahu, Major Naftali Bennett and Major General Yoav Galant - and that is an understatement. I am sure that a coalition led by Gantz will not include any Kahanists, supporters of terror, or deniers of Israel’s right to be a predominantly Jewish state within recognized borders.
Of course, some of my expectations of a Gantz-led government, if and when it is established, might not materialize, but even if only part of them are realized – dayenu.