Netanyahu-Gantz ‘Unity’

Perhaps it can be said that the Coronavirus crisis has claimed its first triumph over a government in apparently causing Kahol-Lavon (Blue and White) party leader Benny Gantz to accede to a coalition agreement with Likud, without forcing the retirement of Israel’s criminally-indicted Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.  Gantz has declared this a necessity to meet the public health emergency, but this sudden decision has prompted about half of his slate, Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid (There is a Future) party and Moshe Ya’alon’s Telem, to split from Blue and White and go into opposition. 

A Times of Israel article reports upon Lapid’s blistering condemnation of Gantz’s act of “fraud” that insulates Netanyahu from the consequences of “corruption,” capitulates to ultra-Orthodox “coercion,” and endangers Israel’s peace treaty with Jordan by permitting the likely annexation of parts of  the West Bank.  Here’s a sample:

“There is no connection between this government and the word emergency,” Lapid claimed. “Three weeks of negotiations and they talked about rotation [of the prime ministership], about jobs, about another official residence [for the acting prime minister] at the taxpayers’ expense. Instead of fighting the coronavirus, they’re fighting the Supreme Court. Instead of a compensation mechanism to save small businesses, they’re saving Netanyahu from his legal troubles.” 

This links to a straight, non-editorializing report on the coalition agreement by David Horovitz. 

In the April 20th Zoom briefing from the Israel Policy Forum, Michael Koplow speculated that there’s a provision of the coalition agreement that will allow Netanyahu to wiggle out of the deal to rotate the prime ministership to Gantz after 18 months.  Koplow envisions Netanyahu proposing something in the budget that Gantz can’t swallow, which would break up the partnership, while Netanyahu remains caretaker prime minister pending elections.  

This links to J Street’s April 22nd briefing on the coalition agreement, which features Jeremy Ben-Ami in conversation with J Street’s Israel representative, Yael Patir.  They concentrate on the disturbing provision that would allow the government to begin, on July 1, to consider unilaterally annexing parts of the West Bank.  

On April 6th, The Third Narrative’s organizational sponsor, Ameinu (the Labor-Zionist affiliate in the US), posted a joint statement with Ameinu-Canada and Ameinu-Australia, opposing the apparent decision of Israel’s Labor Party to join the new Netanyahu-led coalition.  It appears that two of the three elected Labor Members of Knesset, Amir Peretz and Itzik Shmuely, are slated to accept ministerial portfolios — Peretz as economics minister and Shmueli as minister of welfare.  The third sitting Labor MK, Merav Michaeli, has voiced her opposition to joining the new coalition.  

Postscript: Michael Koplow’s column, “It’s All About the Benjamins,” was published by the Israel Policy Forum on April 23rd.  (Click here for the audio reading.) He lays out in detail how Benjamin Netanyahu has won out in the coalition agreement with Benny Gantz, especially on two of Netanyahu’s priorities: First insulating himself from being forced from office while he is tried on three corruption charges, both while he remains prime minister for the next 18 months and during the following 18 months when the prime ministership is scheduled to rotate with Netanyahu inhabiting a brand new status as “alternate prime minister.”  Secondly, it sets the stage for a move to unilaterally annex some territory in the West Bank, beginning for consideration on July 1 — the sole exception to the coalition agreement of not taking any substantive policy decisions beyond confronting the public health crisis for the first six months of this new government.