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Did Gantz Do the Right Thing?

Some friends whose opinions I respect have reacted against my support (for what it’s worth) for the so-called unity government. They do not seem to believe that Benny Gantz did the right thing by joining Binyamin Netanyahu. They argue that the prime minister has taken the leader of the opposition to the cleaners by manipulating him to sign a vague and obscurely worded coalition agreement that’s very different from the platform on which the leader of the Blue and White party successfully fought in the last three elections.

Some cited approvingly the powerful speech by Yair Lapid, until recently Gantz’s partner in Blue and White, that you cannot fight corruption from within without becoming tainted by it. Therefore, Gantz’s intention to modify Netanyahu’s rampage against Israel’s judiciary (to protect himself in the face of the pending charges) and the policy toward the Palestinians (to assuage politicians on the right), will turn him (Gantz) into an accomplice. They argue that democracy has been severely compromised and blame Gantz for having contributed to it.

In order to get a different perspective, I zoomed in yesterday on a discussion between people in the know, sponsored by the respected Israel Democracy Institute. I did not hear much disagreement with the critics of the deal. but I also understood that, despite its obvious flaws, a deal of the kind reached was preferable to the current political instability in the land.. And the deal avoids yet another election which couldn’t be held in the foreseeable future and, when finally held, may not have yielded different results from the previous three.

I’ve also heard it said in different contexts that the fourth election may have only strengthened the right-wing and perhaps created a government that wouldn’t have the constraints, however weak and inadequate In the eyes of critics, that this unity government does have, at least potentially,

In other words, without necessarily disagreeing with the criticism of the deal, supporters believe that it is a way out of the present impasse and a way of dealing with the corona crisis and its aftermath. Some hope that the many Blue and White members of the government (plus the leader of the now de facto defunct Labor Party and his sidekick) will act as correctives.

The flaw that the Democracy Institute panelists stressed that I have not heard from other critics is the absence of a coherent economic policy. Many believe that the greatest challenge once the crisis has eased – though it is likely to be with us for a long time – is economic. In countries like India the issue is dramatic because it may leave millions starving, but even in Israel a lowering of the standard of living and much unemployment are expected.

Benny Gantz is not as politically skilled ad Binyamin Netanyahu but, unlike the image of the prime minister, he seems to be genuine and even prepared to compromise with his election manifesto as well as his personal standing for the sake of what he believes to be the good of the country. Being naïve isn’t a sin if it brings about stability and acts as a corrective to excesses.

Did Gantz do the right thing? I am among those saying Yes. The future will tell. If I am wrong, Israel faces political turmoil.

Jerusalem 23.4.20                                                                                                                            Dow Marmur

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