Can Benny Gantz Be the Martyr Israel Needs?

Israel is stuck and things are getting worse and worse. We haven’t had a legitimate government in a year and a half and we don’t seem any closer to getting one with both camps hardening their stances everyday.

There are two men with the power to get Israel unstuck. Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz. Both men, in their own ways, hold the power to get Israel’s government moving again after more than a year of electoral deadlock.

Right now, the stakes couldn’t be higher. With the Corona virus pandemic and its social, economic, health, and governmental impact, to the now almost forgotten “peace plan” proposed by President Trump, Israel needs a functioning government and it needs it now.

Bibi Netanyahu could end this in a few minutes. Let’s be clear, the current Prime Minister of Israel is under indictment and about to start trial in three different corruption cases. He has spent the last few years doing everything possible to delay and derail the investigation and prosecution. Nonetheless, he could end all of this right now and resign. He could hand the reigns of Likud to a chosen successor and go to put his full energies into his legal defense, and the defense of his legacy. Who knows, maybe he would be found not guilty and be able to return to Balfour street as the Prime Minister who fought off his unjust opponents and returned heroically to leadership.

But as we all well know, that will not happen. Bibi has his talons dug into the Prime Ministership and he will not release it unless forced, so there really isn’t much point in continuing down the line of thought of how Bibi could end this impasse, since he is both unwilling, and inherently unable to give up power.

Since we know Bibi will not end this deadlock, the question is can Benny Gantz end it. The answer is a resounding yes. And he can do it while standing by his promises to voters and his beliefs about what is right for Israel. The truth is Benny Gantz cannot form a stable coalition. He will not be able to put together the numbers and Israel isn’t ready for a government supported, even from the outside, by the Arab Joint List (no matter how much this writer wishes it were so.)

Israel needs a new leader. The only thing that can end this impasse is Bibi’s removal from office. But who says Benny Gantz is the leader Israel needs right now? Who says a massive changeover in the leadership of all ministries is what’s best for Israel at this critical moment?

What’s best for Israel right now is real compromise, and real leadership. Benny Gantz holds enough power in the Knesset to pass laws that would disallow a Knesset Member under indictment from being tasked with forming a coalition or pass a law that a serving Prime Minister must resign if indicted, like is the case with other ministers. This would basically remove Netanyahu from power. But even if that were to happen, it is unlikely that Benny Gantz would have the numbers to form a stable coalition, especially considering the bloc he has formed has only one goal, the removal of Bibi from the Prime Ministership.

So even if Gantz were to topple Netanyahu, the stalemate probably wouldn’t end. The answer is real compromise. Bibi is forced out of office, and Gantz announces that Blue and White will join a unity coalition as junior partner to whomever Bibi appoints as his successor with elections to be scheduled for 18-24 months from now.

In this scenario Blue and White and Likud form a coalition of 69 seats under a Likud Prime Minister, with the likelihood of Yisrael Betyanu(7), Yamina (6), Labor (3), and Gesher (1) joining as well to make a large, stable coalition of 86 seats. This would leave the Haredi parties, Meretz, and the Joint List in the opposition.

This would put Gantz in a pretty bad spot politically, he would be playing second or third fiddle in an emergency government after promising to be Prime Minister, but he would have achieved his main goal of removing Bibi. To be truthful, his political career would probably flounder after that Israeli politics being what it is, but a true leader does what’s best for the people, even if it isn’t what’s best for himself. This is why Bibi isn’t a true leader and must go. But is Benny Gantz willing to make the personal sacrifice true leadership at this moment calls for?

This idea reflects what pollsters have been saying the will of the Israeli people is for the last year and half, and I would imagine as the political division and the coronavirus restrictions get worse, more and more Israelis will want a resolution to the deadlock that looks like this. We know Bibi won’t willingly give up power in a compromise for the sake of the Israeli people. But might Gantz? The real question today is, is Benny Gantz willing to be the martyr Israel truly needs?

About the Author
Michael Hilkowitz holds degrees in History and Secondary Education from Temple University and is a graduate of the Philadelphia High School for International Affairs. Living in Israel since 2012, he serves as the Chief Content Office for The Israel Innovation Fund, a 501.c.3 working to promote Israeli culture, art, and humanities innovation abroad.
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