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Hoping That Gantz Will Curb Some of Netanyahu’s Excesses

Binyamin Netanyahu is not the only politician with access to power who uses the corona crisis to tamper with justice and democracy in his country. Today’s the Marker, the business section of Israel’s leading daily newspaper Ha’aretz, lists nine other countries that are similarly afflicted by their political leaders. Perhaps a comprehensive list would be even longer. By all accounts, these politicians seem to be having a good pandemic

The situation in Israel is complicated by the fact – and you have heard this many times before – that its prime minister is about to stand trial that may result in a prison sentence. His efforts are, therefore, not only to grab power for power’s sake but also to keep himself out of jail. His political battle is very personal and hence relentless.

As readers of this page know, I am among those who believe that Benny Gantz and what is left of his Blue and White party have joined the Netanyahu government in the hope of stopping the abuse of democracy. Many Israelis disagree. Some even view Gantz and the fifteen or so Members of Knesset who joined him as potential accomplices. I pray that the critics will be proven wrong.

A first sign of this is that Ya’akov Litzman, the titular head of the Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodox political party Yahadut Hatorah, has asked to be relieved from being the minister of health, a position he has held for a decade or so. He has been compromised not only because he ignored his own rules about social distancing but, as the same issue of the Marker reports, his Hasidic sect has received millions of shekels in “donations” from the owner of the IKEA concession in Israel. That is probably why IKEA stores stayed open during the pandemic while other businesses of that ilk were closed. Perhaps Litzman realizes more than Gantz’s critics that things may be changing now.

Perhaps now also a woman member of Litzman’s sect, who now hides in Israel, will be sent back to Australia, where she taught for many years and where she has been charged with sexually abusing students.

Though we have been repeatedly warned that Netanyahu will manipulate Gantz and his colleagues to do his bidding, perhaps in time even the prime minister will discover what his health minister may already sense. He may, therefore, in the end desist from trying to subvert the judiciary. Though he has indicated that he has the masses on his side and, should his position be challenged, countless Israelis will come out to demonstrate on his behalf, it may in fact be little more than an empty threat.

Readers are invited to read this as an attempt to justify my belief that Benny Gantz and his colleagues did the right thing by joining Netanyahu to form the next government. Gantz may turn out to be a necessary corrective that in the end could even remove Israel from the list cited at the top of this page.

Jerusalem 26.4.20                                                                                                               Dow Marmur

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