Gantz discards Joint List and cedes the throne to Netanyahu

Gantz discards Joint List and cedes the throne to Netanyahu
Comment: Faced with coronavirus and the prospect of cooperation with the Arab Joint List, Gantz unites with Netanyahu to defeat a joint enemy, writes Laura Albast.
4 min read
31 Mar, 2020
'Normalised racism ended the Joint List's 15 minutes of fame' writes Albast [Getty]
Two weeks ago, Benny Gantz was faced with three options: form a coalition that includes the Arabs, force Israel's fourth election in less than two years, or enter a unity government with Benjamin Netanyahu. In the end, he cowered, and took the third path. 

Normalised racism towards Palestinian citizens in Israel ended the Joint List's 15 minutes of fame as a promising force in Israeli politics, denying minorities any chance at a semblance of equality and safety. What could have been an opportunity for dialogue and bipartisan legislation is no longer on the table. 

Gantz folding to Netanyahu's authority comes as no surprise. It was his only chance to retain power in the Knesset after receiving a political kiss of death: the Arab Joint List's endorsement

The List's endorsement cost Gantz the support of two elected members of his Blue and White party: Yoaz Hendel and Zvi Hauser. They would rather be led by a corrupt Netanyahu than associate with Palestinian citizens of Israel.

Short of a 61-seat majority, Gantz realised that pursuing his initial plan would further erode his political capital. After all, Israel thrives on Zionist ideology, and Zionism is inherently anti-Arab. Gantz chose power over ethics: he is elected speaker of the Knesset, extending Netanyahu's 11-year consecutive tenure rather than ending it.

Gantz' manoeuver threw Israeli politics into disarray: Blue and White split between those who support a unity government with Likud and those who do not, while pundits on the left anticipate losing Labor chairman Amir Peretz, and Labor MK Itzik Shmuli to the Netanyahu-led government. 

Israeli leaders have done what they do best: unite to vanquish a common enemy

At a time when a global pandemic threatens society, Israeli leaders have done what they do best: unite to vanquish a common enemy and preserve the sacred security of their nation state. Gantz and Netanyahu have both exploited the coronavirus crisis for their own gains.

With the justice system shuttered and emergency powers enacted, Netanyahu has the throne all to himself again, his trial postponed again by over two months, He is able to play the strongman in a crisis, boosting his approval ratings and blocking any opposition legislation from going forward.

Gantz, on the other hand, has chosen to save himself from electoral declines, as voters reject him for his attempts to ally with the Joint List. He believes that his decision will be perceived as an act of leadership in a time of crisis, and possibly even increase his favourability among Israelis. 

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"Israel will always come before everything else," wrote Gantz on his social media accounts last week and in a blogpost in the Times of Israel this morning. In reality, however, Netanyahu's demands and Gantz' political survival take precedence.

The unity deal dictates that Netanyahu will serve as Prime Minister in this time of crisis, and up to 18 months after it is over, before the position rotates to Gantz. In the meantime, Gantz will possibly serve as foreign minister and deputy prime minister, granting him veto power in policymaking. 

The Israeli democratic system is as deficient as its governing ideology. It follows the conduct of 14 Basic Laws, none of which impose limitations on governmental authority. The executive branch, characterised by the prime minister and his cabinet, possesses wide powers on internal, foreign, and security affairs. It has overarching power that surpasses that of the Knesset.

If there is one thing many Israelis have been consistent about, it is their commitment to oppress all aspects of Palestinian life

Israeli politics is synonymous with the politics of security: identifying a long-term enemy, and feeding on people's fears. Power will always be particularly centralised with Netanyahu. 

Is this unity government a recipe for disaster? Of course, but the Palestinians burned their taste buds a long time ago.

Both Gantz and Netanyahu are war criminals, so it doesn't really matter who's calling the shots: the shots will continue to pile up civilian bodies in the West Bank and Gaza.

If there is one thing many Israelis have been consistent about, it is their commitment to oppress all aspects of Palestinian life. It is not Israel's upcoming government that we should be anticipating for political change - it is that of the Occupied territories.

As the looming health crisis continues to worsen globally, there is no clear vision of what the future holds. When it ends, the ball is in the Palestinians' court. If the Israelis won't replace their demagogues, we must replace our own.

Laura Albast is Palestinian-American. She holds degrees from the American University of Beirut and Boston University, and works at an NGO in Washington, D.C.

Follow her on Twitter: @Lau_Bast

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff. 

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