Giving Gantz a Chance: what would change?

With Israel going to an election for the second time in five months, what would change for the Israeli citizen by replacing Netanyahu?

While the average Israeli citizen currently appears to care about economic change, the Israeli voter seems to want to examine the Netanyahu government’s reliance on the ultra-orthodox parties where the current suggested lead held by Gantz’s Blue and White may be signalling a backlash against a sector of the Israeli economy with traditionally low participation rates—ultra-Orthodox men.

While, in terms of Knesset seats, Gantz may get over the line, the fact remains that his party has not offered anything substantial in terms of a party platform on the economy.

The reason for this, of course, is that the continuing Arab-Israeli conflict overshadows all else.

Giving Gantz a chance will not change this because, on the day after the election, Hezballah, Hamas and Iran will still be there. The “peace-process” and the 2SS will remain dead in the water, and the PA will continue to hate on Hamas to the satisfaction of the Israelis.

It is difficult to see how Gantz would change the current Israeli strategy of keeping Hamas on a low flame in Gaza while focusing on the more serious threat on the northern border. That then, would count as a “no change” as well despite the name change.

The question of annexation of “west bank” settlements and securing the Jordan Valley may be shelved for the time being, but it is not an issue which will disappear. Quite the opposite, with increasing Israeli frustration at overcrowding, annexation of the settlements in Judea and Samaria would provide living space for millions more Israelis while also putting non-hostile population on the ground in a sensitive border area.

The Arab Joint List is currently crowing about a possible 13 parliamentary seats making it potentially the 3rd largest party in the Knesset. The Arab MKs are allegedly happy to have “anyone but Bibi” but that may be a premature elation if the next PM is the man who was chief of army command in the 2014 Gaza war and who may, in the future, face trial (in absentia??) for alleged war crimes against Arabs in that war. The Arab voter may feel a measure of success in playing her/his part in trying to replace the “right-wing government” of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but the Arab street remains deeply dissatisfied with the performance and representation of several of its Arab members of parliament and may revert to (traditional clannish) type by shooting itself in the foot in the days and weeks ahead.

Giving Gantz his chance will also have implications for Israeli reception of trumps peace plan once the numbers after the results have firmed up.

So far, Gantz has remained largely silent on the latest US-sponsored peace plan during his campaign and avoided questions about his favoured solution to the conflict. It is worth remembering that in February 2019, his election campaigns ads talked about “returning” parts of Gaza to the stone ages and that his party’s slogan “Israel before everything” may give Arab Knesset members and his co-rotational PM-elect Yair Lapid, food for thought, not least because Lapid’s Yesh Atid party platform has criticized Israeli settlements in the “west bank” and has advocated a two-state solution to solve the Palestinian issue, issues I believe will cause considerable intraparty discord going forward.

Add to this the challenge Blue and White laid down to Netanyahu’s national security credentials, criticizing him for seeking temporary agreements with Hamas rather than destroying the group in the Gaza Strip, and you have an unlikely coalition of Lapid and Gantz at professedly polar ends of a workable strategy in the continuing Arab-Israeli conflict.

It would not be reasonable to suggest at this stage that Gantz will nix the American peace initiative which has so far been rejected out of hand by the PA, and this will put him immediately on a combative path with the Arab “anyone but Bibi” bloc as well as the more left-wing elements in his newly-formed party.

Between Gantz and Lapid, Yair Lapid would be the weak link of the two. Gantz has avoided meaningful scrutiny of any kind by opting to be a small target by shutting his mouth. Lapid on the other hand seems to find it more challenging to control himself. As evidence, I offer Yair Rosenberg’s Tablet quote from  Lapid’s desire to teach Israelis to understand American Jews: “Anytime I have something to think about, I always do the same thing,” Lapid says. “I fly somewhere…”

For me, this does not augur well. Real politics will not allow you to accrue frequent flyer points at will.

But, these are early “days” yet – hours actually; and there are significant question marks about what a new government will do about the recently (narrowly) passed nation-state law, not to mention that there is a better than average chance that a national unity government (Lieberman’s baby) could well lose focus and direction given the “robust” nature of Israeli politics……..

With Gantz and Lapid scheduled to dance in and out of the PMship, the latest 2019 election results might well become a case of Gantzing the right away.

All the same, no matter the eventual outcome, the ancient Chinese curse “May you live in interesting times” is currently front and centre in the State of Israel.

 

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