Benny Gantz is a decent man in an impossible situation.
The central promise of the Blue and White party to its voters was that it seeks a unity government but that in no event will it enter into a government under Netanyahu. A man that has been indicted and charged with serious criminal offences that has no moral right to lead the country.
The election results leave Gantz without the option of forcing Netanyahu out of office by forming a minority government with the support of Liberman from the right and the United List from the left. He has gathered the required 61 recommendations to be given the mandate to form the next government – but two of those that recommended him to the President will not support a minority government backed by the Arab parties, which unfortunately is the only government that Gantz can present (given that the right wing block of 59 – 58 plus Orly Levy- stands with Bibi).
Gantz reasons: the country cannot be subjected to a fourth round of elections. A major health crises has in turn created a major economic crisis. A government is desperately needed. Pragmatically, a fourth round of elections may also be in Bibi’s interests – Bibi’s nightly TV addresses to a frightened nation gratefully hearing how he, the father of the nation, has single handedly acted to defeat the dreaded Carona virus coupled with “exposing” Blue and White’s willingness to coordinate parliamentary moves with the Arab minority represented by the United List – could well give Bibi and his right wing block the 61 mandates that they seek (current opinion polls seem to verify this).
The Likud and the right-wing block will put forward no other candidate than the accused Mr. Netayahu. So, what is Gantz to do?
Gantz; for lack of any alternative, seems to be negotiating terms for joining a “Unity Crises Government” – in which Bibi will serve as Prime Minister for the first 18-24 months and then (in theory) – Gantz will be “rotated” into the office of the Prime Minister and Bibi will move out of Balfour Street.
The “rotation” will never happen. Lapid and Ya’alon both know it. Possible Benny Gantz knows it too. But if he does not help Bibi form a government – then new elections are inevitable as Gantz himself has no path to forming a government and Bibi has no government without Gantz.
But Gantz joining Bibi – will destroy the Blue and White Party. Lapid and Ya’alon will not join. Gantz will lead a rump faction of about 15 MKs into a “Unity Government”. Bibi wins – the anti-Bibi block crumbles and Gantz breaks his key promise to his electorate. When elections are next held – no viable alternative Blue and White alternative will exist and Bibi will handily be reelected.
So what can Gantz do? To join or not to join -seems to be the question. Both terrible choices -with terrible consequences.
I suggest another way forward. Instead of a “Unity Crises Government” – a “Unity Crises Support Net”. Blue and White should support the formation of a minority right wing government led by Netanyahu and should support the passing of an agreed “crisis budget”.
By supporting from outside some fundamental advantages are kept: (1) Blue and White help the formation of a government – which fulfills a basic need of the country at this time; (2) Blue and White can keep the moral high ground of refusing to serve under a man morally unfit to be Prime Minister – thus keeping their party united and keeping their central commitment to their electorate not to serve under Bibi; (3) Gantz can keep the anti-Bibi block of 61 together in the Knesset and can use this majority to effectively curtail the minority government’s powers, using parliament to check executive action. The Knesset can protect the rule of law and the courts.
Once a budget is passed – and without a Knesset majority – Bibi will be unable to force new elections at a time of his choice. Let the accused Netanyahu appear in court to try and “dismiss” the charges against him while dealing with the real urgent matters of State that a Prime Minister is required to manage.
The 61 Members of Parliament that oppose Bibi may amend the law and clarify that the President is not entitled to give a mandate to form a government to a person that is charged with felony crimes. Then, at a timing of their choice, they can either act to form a government themselves, or disperse the Knesset with the certain knowledge that this time, Netanyahu will not be entitled to receive a mandate to form a government.
So a resounding No to any “Unity Crises Government” – and Yes to the only available alternative that will defeat Bibi:– a “Unity Crises Support Net” – a “life-line” to Bibi in the short term – but a guarantee that in the medium to long term – his era will end.