It took Benny Gantz a little over a year from the time he entered Israel’s political arena to show that he has a backbone. In his capacity as leader of the Blue and White Party, he pledged not to join a government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and that earned him many votes, but given the stark health crisis facing the country, he decided there were more important things than that campaign promise.
Indeed, only those blinded by hate could argue for allowing the political logjam crippling Israeli politics to remain in place, or support the formation of a minority government whose existence hangs on the Joint Arab List.
Thursday was therefore Gantz’s own Independence Day.
Gantz is not a risk-taker. He never was, not even during his long military career. However, the risk he has now taken is enormous: Trusting the most experienced politician in the region, if not the world, and binding his political fate to that of Netanyahu has to be among the toughest decisions he has ever made—a “to be or not to be” decision.
On the other side is the comfort zone. Gantz’s erstwhile partners in Blue and White, Yair Lapid and Moshe Ya’alon, who did everything they could to torpedo a unity government, assured Gantz he would continue to lead the Blue and White faction,urging him to form a minority government and convincing him he had nothing to worry about should a fourth round of elections be called.
But Israel is facing a true emergency. It took time for that to sink in, but it is pivotal that everyone understands Gantz was not acting on a whim. The threat the coronavirus outbreak poses is very, very real and old campaign promises must give way to the new reality. History will harshly judge those who put petty politics first at a time like this.
The determination of hawkish Blue and White lawmakers Zvi Hauser and Yoaz Hendel also brought about Gantz’s decision. Their refusal to support a minority government ruled out that scenario, forcing Gantz to look for other options.
This is no minor thing; Blue and White, a faction that until Thursday comprised Lapid’s Yesh Atid, Ya’alon’s Telem and Gantz’s Israel Resilience Party, did not hold primaries. As members of Telem, Hauser and Hendel’s political fate lies with Ya’alon. Nevertheless, they preferred to follow their conscience.
Yesh Atid leader Lapid had a plan. Immediately after being dismissed by Netanyahu in 2015, he made up his mind never to join a Netanyahu-led government again, no matter the circumstances.
Even at No. 2 in Blue and White, Lapid did not change his plans. In this sense he was short-sighted. The last thing that interests the Israeli public these days, where everyone is cooped up at home due to a nationwide lockdown, is politics. Lapid missed the mark from day one of the coronavirus crisis, and is sorely mistaken if he thinks that sticking to his principles at this time will win him any political points.
Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman was hoping to topple Netanyahu, but he wasn’t willing to the pay the price. Instead, he stuck to his hatred and need for revenge. Voters will not forget Lieberman’s willingness to cooperate with the anti-Zionist Arab Knesset members, in utter disregard of his own professed principles. Once again, it has been made clear that Lieberman is the biggest fraud in Israeli politics. He is devoid of any ideology or values and while he has yet to pay a political price for that, maybe this time, his voters will exact it.
Mati Tuchfeld writes for Israel Hayom.
This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.