Norman L. Smith
Norman L. Smith

Prevention is Better Than Cure

It appears well understood, including by Times of Israel journalists, that the governmental powers Benny Gantz succeeded in negotiating into the coalition agreement (despite diminished leverage) are “enormous” and that consequently, “Netanyahu will most certainly try to oust Gantz” at the first opportunity.  If there is yet another inconclusive election (which appears likely), then Netanyahu will remain head of the “transitional government,” as he has for most of the prior 2.5 years.  Left unchecked, Netanyahu’s power is likely to be even more aggressively abused given his increasingly desperate personal crises.

The  “checks and balances” that currently restrict and mitigate Netanyahu’s abuses include Gantz’s control over important ministries and a virtual veto on cabinet decisions. These powers will subsist during any one or more transitional governments and include controlling the Ministry of Justice to prevent Netanyahu from further eroding judicial independence, obstructing the Rule of Law and firing the Attorney General and other important law enforcement officials in a desperate attempt to shield himself from prosecution.  Gantz will also continue to ensure that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other important ministries serve the State and its citizens rather than Netanyahu’s political and personal purposes.  Most importantly, Gantz will maintain experienced, objective and professional control of the Ministry of Defense allowing the IDF to perform its crucial role without Netanyahu’s self-centered distractions and interference.  It is therefore undeniably beneficial that Gantz, whose most vociferous critics concede is a decent and honest man of integrity with admirable personal qualities and values, continue to exercise these powers.  No sincere opponent of Netanyahu’s protracted tenure can plausibly deny that Gantz’s “checks and balances” have mitigated the adverse consequences of Netanyahu’s increasingly brazen and previously unfettered abuse of governmental powers.

The only issue that certain journalists appear to dispute is whether Gantz can retain office, and the attendant powers, if Kachol Lavan is not elected to the Knesset. They argue that the law “is likely” to permit Gantz to retain the agreed coalition powers even if Kachol Lavan is not elected to the Knesset.   However, I doubt that any prudent person would risk relinquishing such vital restraints on Netanyahu’s abuse of power based solely on the mere hope of prevailing in a lawsuit in a legally untested and uncertain area.  This would be especially reckless when there is the effective alternative of electing Kachol Lavan to the Knesset and eliminating all risk.  If we want to restrain Netanyahu (which could be necessary for a long time) then electing Kachol Lavan for this, among many other good reasons, is not only prudent but also a most effective method of protecting our institutions of democracy, justice and security.

About the Author
Norman Smith is an attorney licensed to practice in California and South Africa. He is a fellow of the Wexner Heritage Foundation, serves on the National Board of the Friends of the IDF and is the founder and immediate past Chairman of the San Diego Chapter of the Friends of the IDF. Mr. Smith recently made Aliyah joining his daughter, Danielle, who served in the IDF as a Lone Soldier 14 years ago, his son-in-law and granddaughter.
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