(January 16, 2019 / JNS) The people who advised former Israel Defense Forces’ Chief of Staff Benny Gantz to stay silent until after the election probably know their client well.
These advisers assume that there are a sufficient number of Israelis who would vote for anyone who represents change, regardless of the candidate’s actual views. But this week it turned out that Gantz is just more of the same, offering an alphabet soup of ideas that keep changing by the day, depending on which way the wind is blowing.
On Monday, he was against the nation-state law, but on Tuesday, he reportedly said he supports it. His political gymnastics are even more impressive than that of Yesh Atid chair Yair Lapid.
Gantz decided to break his silence on political issues while meeting Druze activists who opposed the nation-state law. They were joined by former senior IDF officers and former Mossad chief Tamir Pardo.
These former officials, who used to think the country was their own private property, hold a grudge against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for daring to take power and then pursuing right-wing policies.
One of the Druze leaders at the rally was former Brig. Gen. (ret.) Amal Asad, who has a distinguished record as a combat fighter. The television caption described him as the “the Israeli-Druze general.”
This is a very clever way to propagate the nasty claim that the nation-state law casts the Druze as unloyal citizens.
The nation-state law, officially known as Basic Law: Israel as the Nation-state of the Jewish people, is one of the most important pieces of legislation in our law books, alongside Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty. These two laws reflect Israel’s character as the only nation-state of the Jewish people while guaranteeing equality among individual citizens.
When polls open on April 9, Israelis will decide whether they want their country to be defined as a nation of all its citizens or a Jewish state.
The left, for its various reasons, opposes the nation-state law, whereas the right supports it. Thus, by speaking against the law, Gantz has effectively joined the left.
His attempt to have it both ways didn’t last long, and the fact that he has been embraced by Labor leader Avi Gabbay and Hatnuah leader Tzipi Livni proves he has joined the ranks of the left.
Gantz, who recently formed the Israel Resilience Party, has every right to oppose the nation-state law, but he has shown wickedness and malice by accusing the right of shooting the entire Druze community in the back.
You can’t get any lower than that, and there is no greater lie. All Israelis, on the right and the left, are grateful for the contribution of Druze to Israeli society and to state security. Such talk about shooting people in the back is dangerous and could take this election down a violent path.
The 1981 Knesset election was particularly heated. Being the first election after the Likud rose to power, the left went out of its way to argue that its loss four years earlier was a historical accident.
One of the defining moments of the campaign took place when the late comedian Dudu Topaz used derogatory language to describe Sephardi Jews who supported the right.
Topaz’s inciting comments opened old wounds. But the 2019 election campaign will likely be as toxic or even more so. It will probably be the left’s final attempt to regain power before it walks off stage and disappears into oblivion.
The market of ideas in a democracy should be open to everyone, but it must not be the wild west. Israel will face major challenges after the election, and without internal unity, we won’t be able to overcome them.
At these trying times, it is incumbent upon public officials to show responsibility. If Gantz wants to remain true to the name of his party he should not undermine our collective resilience. We have no other state.
Dr. Haim Shine is a faculty member of Israel’s Academic Center of Law and Science, and a member of the Jewish Agency’s Board of Governors.