Political unity in Israel

Benny Gantz is willing for the first time to sit in a national-unity government under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a rotation in the Prime Minister’s Office, he said Thursday night in an interview with Channel 12.

On March 2 the first exit polls of the recent elections came out and former Chief of Staff Benny Gantz was given prematurely for defeat so even politically dead.

At the same time, nothing seemed to prevent Benjamin Netanyahu from being heard in court for the corruption and fraud cases for which he is accused. Instead, the introduction of the pandemic emergency measures package automatically postponed his trial from 17 March to 24 May.

In fact, the conservative Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, adopted new restrictive measures because of the coronavirus. He has decided that the agents of the Shin Bet – secret service for the interior of Israel – will be employed to identify the people infected by the coronavirus who have not given sufficient information about their movements. This type of surveillance, Israeli officials said, will be carried out using electronic systems used against terrorism, including tracking the mobile phones of the people to be monitored. Netanyahu himself admitted that such measures could violate Israeli privacy laws.

Shortly after the announcement to the nation, on the night between Saturday and Sunday, Netanyahu made the second move, provoking the furious reaction of the opposition.

Sixty hours before his trial for fraud and corruption began, Netanyahu, in agreement with Acting Justice Minister Amir Ohana, ordered the closure of the Israeli justice system. As Ohana explained, all court activities were suspended except for urgent cases, to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. His opponents talk about a “legal coup d’etat.”

The result of the third election ended with a substantial draw between the two coalitions, one gathered around Netanyahu and the other around Ganzt.

The right-wing side (led by Netanyahu) had obtained more seats: but even this time it failed to attract more votes around itself.

Netanyahu had tried to propose to Gantz a government of national unity: but at the moment this path has been abandoned.

In fact, on Sunday during the consultations held by Israeli President Rivlin, the United Arab List, a centre-left party representing the Arab-Israeli people, unexpectedly announced that it would support a government led by Gantz.

The United Arab List also added that it would instead oppose any attempt to form a government of national unity between Likud, Netanyahu’s party, and Blue and White, Gantz’s party.

The United Arab List specified that Gantz would have the support of all party MPs, including those from Balad, an ultranationalist force (seen by many in Israel as an enemy of the state). A few hours later, Avigdor Lieberman, leader of a secular and nationalist party that had previously said it had no intention of making deals with the United Arab List, also announced support for Gantz.

The Israeli President, Reuven Rivlin, has therefore announced that he will entrust the task of forming the government to Benny Gantz, this after the Blue and White Party leader received the endorsement of 61 deputies in the consultations against the 58 obtained by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Benny Gantz promised to make the training process as fast and inclusive as possible.

The general pledged to give Israel “the broadest and most patriotic government possible” and to “heal society from the coronavirus, as well as from hate division viruses”.

The numbers to form a government seem to be there. The problem is to amalgamate souls so different, this will be an epic feat.

So there are always three streets left.

The first one is the one where Netanyahu, a politician with a strong ability to build and repair majorities, eventually manages to invent something to stay in the “Balfour street residence”.

In fact, in case the Gantz operation doesn’t reach concrete results, then Netanyahu could find a group of “responsible” MPs, necessary to get a majority in the Knesset.

A political move that would not find the consent of President Rivlin, who from the day after the vote is an indomitable weaver of a pact between Likud and Kahol Lavan (Blue and White), and also a rotation at the top of the state of Israel.

The second way could be to have a government of national unity with ministries divided between the various political forces that have accepted this agreement.

The third option would be to return to the vote. This is quite complicated given the current international health situation.

In any case, the waters of the political swamp have moved not because of fear of Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran or terrorism but because of an invisible enemy: the Covid-19.

By: Michele Brunori

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