My inbox this past week has inundated me with scary articles detailing how the current political stalemate in Israel is endangering the country’s safety. Among other issues noted, the lack of a budget is holding the vaunted Israeli army back from needed improvements, particularly to its aging Air Force. These articles often use the word “crisis” to describe the situation. Concurrent with my reading these articles, Iran once again declared that it can destroy Israel, this time saying that this threatened holocaust would take 30 minutes or less. Notwithstanding Iran’s assertion, the conclusion that I have drawn is that Israel’s most dangerous enemy currently is its politicians, as opposed to Hamas, Hezbollah or even Iran. These Israeli politicians are, as a result of their own egos, putting the entire population at some greater than would be the case if a government were in place. How big of a risk, I have no idea, but taking on any additional risk at all is reprehensible, irresponsible and unforgivable.
The most positive aspect of having these politicians as our most dangerous enemy is that a few Israelis, who purport to care deeply about the country, can control the situation, provided that they leave their egos at the door and focus on the good of the country. The solution is simple and almost everyone who I have heard speak about it knows that the answer is the creation of a strong coalition among Likud and Kachol Lavan, with Yisrael Beitenu joining for good measure. How we get there is the problem.
I propose the following. Benny Gantz should lead this newly created coalition. After all, his party, Kahol Lavan, actually won a slim victory in the past election. President Reuven Rivlin has now given Gantz the mandate to attempt to form the government, after Prime Minister Netanyahu failed in his second attempt at doing so.
Since Gantz received the mandate a little over a week ago, Gantz has acted impressively. He immediately got to work, meeting with anybody who will talk to him, and then talking with them again for the second, third or even fourth time. That’s what you have to do when you are dealing with egos. Fortunately, he does not appear to be letting his ego get in the way of his challenge. Considering the action of the other players, however, his chances for success are relatively small unless the other players live up to their prior promises.
The major problem players include the current prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu (“Bibi”), Yisrael Beyteinu leader, Avigdor Lieberman, and Gantz’s second-in-command, Yair Lapid. If Gantz can find the solution for how to deal with these three players, his chances of forming a very powerful coalition that maximizes Israel’s strength increase exponentially.
The easiest problem to solve maybe that of Bibi. The only thing I have heard Bibi say during these past scandal filled years more than “Lo kloom kee ayn kloom” (or however he says it, meaning that Israeli investigators and prosecutors will find nothing because there is nothing), is his pronunciation that he puts Israel and its security above his own personal ambitions. Now, if that is truly the case, and based on the proposition that the lack of a government is jeopardizing Israel’s safety, Bibi should (a) agree to act only on behalf of Likud and not all of his other coalition parties; and (b) step aside as prime minister. Now, one might ask, why would Bibi ever do such a thing? Well, perhaps because maybe, as the news indicates, there is just a tad bit more than “kloom” coming out of the investigations.
Bibi’s reign as prime minister has now lasted longer than that of any other prime minister in Israel’s history. The past few years have been riddled with scandals that have significantly disrupted the country. Nonetheless, whether you are a fan or not, Bibi has led the country through some great economic periods, the security situation has been relatively calm and he has forged great relations with some important foreign leaders. But, he is close to 70 years old and now could be a nice time to pack it in, particularly if he can leave a strong legacy in place. No one can deny that he is a very smart man and he could remain a very valuable part of any coalition without serving as prime minister.
In order to accomplish the foregoing, Gantz, in connection with the attorney general, will have to be given the authority to offer Bibi full immunity from prosecution (think back to Gerald Ford pardoning Richard Nixon) in return for his agreeing to permanently relinquish the prime minister’s role.
By accomplishing the foregoing, Bibi can save face, secure his legacy, continue to serve the country and Israel will be spared the agony of watching another of its prime ministers be engaged in an ugly legal battle.
The second person that has to be dealt with is Avigdor Lieberman. If Lieberman has been sincere in what he says, the proposed solution should be exactly what the doctor ordered. He will end up with the strong unity government he claims to want, while not having to sit in a government with either the Arab parties or the Haredi parties. Lieberman will probably require some type of cabinet position, and Gantz will have to accommodate him accordingly. We have seen this situation before and, in the end, it has worked.
The most difficult of the three situations is that of Yair Lapid. When Lapid merged his Yesh Atid party into Kachol Lavan he did so with the expectation that he and Gantz would rotate as prime ministers The world has changed and that is unlikely now due to the toxic relations that Lapid has with some of the parties involved. In fact, if Lapid insists on a rotation, Gantz’s likelihood of success suffers a possibly fatal blow. Here, we can only hope that, unlike the typical politician, Lapid will act like a true patriot and will do what is in the best interest of the country. Obviously, at some point there will need to be payback. But hopefully Lapid will let that negotiation slide to a later time.
If the foregoing can fall into place, Gantz should have a path to success in forming a strong coalition. A Knesset can be seated and a budget adopted. Every day that goes by without such a government weakens Israel and puts it at greater risk. Our enemy neighbors will sense that weakness and try to use it to their advantage. Although we can hope and pray that they will fail, without a government, no one can accurately predict outcomes. The time has arrived for our politicians to work together on the country’s most important challenge, its security.