Who will replace Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister?

If the answer to this question had been self-evident, perhaps the political turmoil we’ve been experiencing over the last two years could have been avoided.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits Home Front Command, August 4, 2020 (photo credit: YOSSI ALONI/FLASH90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits Home Front Command, August 4, 2020
(photo credit: YOSSI ALONI/FLASH90)
A question I’ve heard before, during and after the recent protests is: Who will replace Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister? Which individual in the current political landscape could take on this complicated, complex and demanding role in place of Netanyahu, who will soon be removed from office? 
If the answer to this question had been self-evident, perhaps the political turmoil we’ve been experiencing over the last two years could have been avoided.
For a brief moment, in terms of political life, it seemed like Benny Gantz would be that person. The impression viewers received from his TV appearances, and certainly considering that he served as IDF chief of staff for four years, was that he might possibly be the one to tip the balance during the three election campaigns that took place over these last two years. 
In reality, however, this didn’t happen. But none of the other contenders took center stage either. No one person aroused a desire among the public to back them as the candidate who could bring about change.
This question still hovers in Israel’s political arena, perhaps even more so now than in the past. There’s no clear indication when the next round of elections will take place. Clearly, the government will not last until the delusional agreement between Blue and White and the Likud comes to fruition.
The crook, who is the current Likud leader and the backbone of his crazy family, never intended to abide by the rotation agreement in the first place. It’s quite clear that even with the distress and uncertainty that the economic crisis creates regarding the results of an election that would take place within the next six months, there might be no way to escape this reality.
Netanyahu is haunted by real fears. Thousands of people have been protesting day after day on Balfour Street. Hundreds of thousands of unemployed Israelis are shouting out from the depths of despair about their feelings of neglect and mistrust in the current government. COVID-19 is refusing to follow the schedule that Bibi has strived to dictate, and instead continues spreading at frightening speed.
All of these could prevent the country from holding another election. The madness that Netanyahu is surrounded by, however, is no less powerful. His crazy son, who calls the thousands of protesters “aliens,” shares his observations with his father, as well as with the public. His wife dances with their dog on the lawn in front of the Balfour abode. Together, they are disrupting the small slice of normalcy that Netanyahu retains. They are exacerbating the chaos, which could soon end in a big explosion.
So, who do we want to see as the next prime minister? Who will be the one to save the State of Israel from the corrupt, fascist and delusional family that has taken over our lives?
AMOS OZ, whose clear and trustworthy voice is so lacking in this public discourse, would always emphasize that the next prime minister is a person who currently stands among us. We might not yet know who it is, but when the moment arrives, we will know. Amos was right, but in my opinion it’s clear that it depends on what this person has to say.
This person will have to speak to the public directly and simply, and courageously talk about the issues that have been marginalized in light of all the screaming and cursing that have recently dominated the public arena.
This individual will have to commit to making significant overtures of peace between Israel and the Palestinians, including consent to the basic idea of the establishment of a Palestinian state in 95% of the land we currently occupy. 
He or she must also agree to an exchange of territories with the future Palestinian state that will be established in such a way that the borders between Israel and Palestine will be more or less compatible in size to the pre-1967 borders. Israel has the power, strength and means to ensure that these borders remain safe and defensible against terrorist activity.
Israel’s next elected leader will have to declare openly and courageously that Israel’s Arab citizens have equal rights and that the Israeli leadership will include their elected representatives. Boycotts against people like Ayman Odeh and Ahmad Tibi will have to stop. 
Anyone who refrains from saying these things, and who thinks that the Arab parties can receive 16-18 seats in the Knesset but will not be part of the game, or produce a majority from the remaining 102-104 seats with people who want to bring about real change, are hallucinating.
Israel’s future leader will need to announce that the government’s budget priorities will be radically altered, and allocate at least NIS 10 billion to carry out reforms of Israel’s schools in an effort to implement former education minister Yuli Tamir’s Ofek Hadash Reform, and raise the level of education in the country to higher levels.
Israel’s future leader must vow to liberate our country from the ultra-Orthodox stronghold and lead with benevolence and complete equality toward the Reform and Conservative communities. The next generation of Israel’s leaders must change the immigration laws in a way that will make it easier for Jews to make aliyah, even if they haven’t converted in accordance with the Shulhan Aruch as interpreted by Litzman, Deri, Gafni & Co.
The State of Israel will need to allocate billions of additional shekels to the welfare budget and raise the minimum wage. Hundreds of thousands of families are currently living paycheck to paycheck and earning less than the minimum wage. This was already a serious matter before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, when the Israeli economy was solid and thriving.
We have no choice but to cut the defense budget, which is nearly NIS 80 billion a year, by at least NIS 15-20 billion. The current defense budget is wasteful, and I am well aware of Israel’s security needs. 
THE STATE of Israel has defeated Hezbollah, dealt Hamas a lethal blow, destroyed a nuclear reactor in Syria and operated effectively and boldly against the Iranian nuclear threat, all with a budget that was smaller by NIS 25 billion.
The defense budget was expanded following the artificially excessive hysteria that has been propagated, and given funds that were taken from Israel’s Education, Welfare and Health ministries.
Israel’s next head of state will need to cut back on infrastructure investment in West Bank settlements. This area will become Palestinian land in the future, and they will be the ones to develop and build on it, not us.
Israel’s next leader will announce that the state is investing billions of shekels in the development of transportation infrastructure in the Negev, and develop the region so that new communities can be established there, including ones for the Bedouin community. All of the costs of developing the new Negev communities – including for the Bedouin – will be covered within the national budget. 
No one who currently professes to call themself a leader is willing to state explicitly and unequivocally that these matters are of grave importance. Each one is busy trying to maneuver between what stance is right and what will get them elected. There’s a big difference between saying the truth and saying what you think won’t upset your potential constituents.
The public wants to hear the truth, even if that truth is painful to hear. People want to know who is willing to offer them a future that includes the possibility of achieving peace, even though this would require concessions, withdrawals and evictions that would offer the chance to live differently with our neighbors. 
The public wants our politicians to stop telling us fairy tales about education, and instead start investing billions in our schools so that our children and grandchildren can have a secure future. What a shame for them to miss out on the opportunity of a quality education.
The Israeli public is fed up with the government’s relentless surrendering to the ultra-Orthodox community’s unreasonable demands. Most Israelis want to live in a country that is tolerant of everyone, including people who are different from them.
I’ve been listening attentively and with an open ear to all the proclamations, promises and rhetoric espoused by the opposition and by politicians from parties that form the current government. Yet I still haven’t heard anyone say what they believe or believe what they say.
It is my hope that Israel’s next leader, the one who will replace Bibi, will believe the things he or she says and will not instead say what they think people want to hear. May our next leader accomplish what needs to be done in order to save us from the mire in which we are stuck so deeply, and may we enter an era that enables us to once again be filled with hope.
The writer was the 12th prime minister of Israel.