It seems as if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz are finally allowing themselves to be in the same place at the same time, after a long period of tension. Netanyahu’s dilemma is genuine: should he cut ties at the end of August, when the Cabinet will have to approve a budget; or should he wait for his next chance, the end of March 2021, the deadline to pass the next state budget?
One thing is certain: as he bats around the question of when his situation will be worse, he has no intention of ruling anything out—and that means a one-year budget.
The debate between him and Gantz on this issue, therefore, is not between two different approaches to the economy, but rather a question of taking advantage of a political opportunity. Netanyahu wants to keep his options open, Gantz wants to hem him in.
The prevailing assessment is that Gantz will cave first. Not only because he has much more to lose, but mainly because he doesn’t have the political support needed for this kind of battle.
The last two days have seen a variety of spins designed to help Gantz out of the corner into which he has backed himself, from scenarios about an alternate government under Netanyahu without an election, to searching for defectors from Blue and White who will cooperate with a narrow right-wing government, to the possibility that yet another former IDF chief (Gadi Eizenkot) would throw his hat in the ring, which would put an end to Gantz as the latest hope of the left.
What is interesting about these scenarios and speculations is that they all come from one source—and it isn’t Netanyahu, but top-ranking members of Blue and White, who want to force their leader to fold.
All signs indicate that Netanyahu still hasn’t made up his mind what to do. His natural tendency to postpone fateful decisions endlessly has run up against cold political calculations, according to which his position will only get worse as time passes. Coronavirus is wreaking havoc on the Israeli economy, and starting in January, Netanyahu will be in and out of the Jerusalem District Court three times a week, as testimony from witnesses for the prosecution and state’s witnesses will be made public and would be used against him during an election campaign.
It appears that Netanyahu prefers for Gantz to make the decision. If the latter goes all in, we will have an election this November. If he folds, Netanyahu will have to hold on until March and hope for a miracle that will allow him to make it through Election Day.
Mati Tuchfeld writes for Israel Hayom.
This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.