My last blog related to the abundance of ministers, ‘Too many Chiefs and not enough Indians.’ Similarly, we now have two ‘alternate’ Prime Ministers who are connected, barely, like Siamese twins.
The two bodies have independent organs, apart from the brain. I will let you guess which body has the brain – clues to follow.
Netanyahu will start as Prime Minister, with Gantz playing the new role of ‘alternate’ Prime Minister. In Ganz’s dreams, he and Netanyahu will switch roles in a year and a half.
This new role definition arose as a result of a small legal issue. Netanya is under indictment, and cannot be a ‘replacement’ prime minister. The reason is that a replacement PM must be a minister, and under indictment, he may not be a minister. Imagine someone not being allowed to command a brigade, yet being permitted to command a division (as an ‘alternate’ division commander, of course.)
To play the part, like a secret agent fulfilling his cover story, Gantz will have an ‘alternate’ PM’s office in the Prime Minister’s office. Gantz will have three additional offices: in the Defense Ministry, the Knesset, and in Blue& White HQ. (At his party HQ I can only assume they are preparing for the next election which could take place in a year and a half.)
With Netanyahu expected to be in court three days a week (out of the five work days), and possibly being questioned by the police on his ‘free’ days for other suspected ‘transgressions’, an ‘alternate’ PM seems like a good idea.
However, you can be sure that Gantz will have no real authority to replace Netanyahu when the latter is unavailable.
Even IF Gantz becomes Prime Minister in a year and a half, the Knesset Speaker will be a Likud member. Gantz will only be able to depend on the support of about 19 ministers, deputy ministers, and members of the Knesset in his ‘alternate’ block.
In other words, he will pretty much be neutralized by the Netanyahu block of 59, and the Speaker who decides on the proposed laws to be brought to the plenum. I wish to remind you that the previous Knesset Speaker, the Likudnik Edelstein, defied a High Court order when he refused to hold a vote for a new Speaker.
One can assume that in order to be consistent, Gantz will want an ‘alternate’ PM residence. Netanyahu’s kids like body guards to drive them around, so Netanyahu has kept that arrangement for his ‘alternate’ PM role. This decision was not made by the security services, but by a political committee. So now Gantz’s kids are entitled to the same, although they will probably turn down this service unless special circumstances arise.
Huge budget cuts are expected. The Health budget must be increased, and cannot be cut, nor can Education. The Defense budget is justifiably large, and as Gantz will be the minister, I expect a significant cut there to weaken Gantz. This will really hurt Israel’s ability to effectively deal with the upcoming defense challenges, but what is the alternative? (Almost wrote ‘alternate’ again.)
Netanyahu cannot cut the budgets of his ‘natural’ partners, like his Haredi partners. He also has to create budgets for the make believe ministries he has just conjured up for his supporters. There used to be a reward (or institutionalized ‘bribe’) for a PM’s supporter called ‘minister without portfolio’, whereby a member of the Knesset received a minister’s salary with all the perks, with no ministry.
To avoid this embarrassing situation, vague portfolios have appeared, like straw companies created for money laundering. The truth of the matter is that since these new ‘alternate’ ministries serve no function anyway, an annual budget of a thousand dollars, or shekels, should suffice. These ministers will still receive their inflated pay cheque, fancy car, driver, and personal assistant – which was the object of the exercise in the first place. I suppose Gantz could even be described as a ‘Prime Minister without portfolio.’
Today, the swearing in ceremony should remind me of the kids’ song: ‘The Circus is coming to Town.’ This will be an ‘alternate’ circus with no performing animals, but lots of clowns.