Gantz: The Sorcerer’s Apprentice – or Jiminy Crickett (Bibi’s conscience)?

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Gantz: The Sorcerer’s Apprentice – or Jiminy Crickett (Bibi’s conscience)?

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The Jerusalem Post  01/04/2020

 

Gantz: The Sorcerer’s Apprentice – or Jiminy Crickett (Bibi’s conscience)?

 

Benny Gantz – the Sorcerer’s Apprentice

I get it. Benny Gantz’s surrender to Benjamin Netanyahu is a terrible disappointment to those of us who keep pleading “Go Bibi Go.” Instead of the Great Blue-and-White Hope, Gantz will become the Sorcerer’s (latest) Apprentice. But the people of Israel have spoken again and again and again. We’re divided. We’re stalemated. We’re fed up with Bibi just enough to fire-up Kachol Lavan but not enough to fire him cleanly. Facing a fourth impasse, this time overshadowed by the CoronaCatastrophe, Gantz acted gallantly, patriotically, like a good self-sacrificing, non-partisan soldier focused on the mission – not an ambitious, self-promoting politician obsessed with power or ego.

Yair Lapid claims Gantz blinked and caved – actually, Gantz saluted and stood tall. In being willing to create a National Emergency Government, Gantz, and the MPs joining him, prove they love Israel more than they hate Bibi – and they hate the Coronavirus more than they hate Bibi. Me too.

A pro-Gantz full-page ad in the tabloid Yediot Achronot signed by the singer Kobi Oz, the entrepreneur Chemi Peres, and, most significantly, 23 heads of municipalities or regional councils agrees: leadership entails taking hard decisions at great personal cost if necessary.

While saluting Gantz’s patriotism, let’s acknowledge his failure here too. Some of us kept begging Gantz and his party to ignore the cowardly politicos counseling caution and instead run a positive campaign:  to stand for something, to articulate a compelling new vision beyond “I’m not Bibi.” The party’s strategy made sense Round One – and actually inspired, thanks to Gantz’s values-laden opening speech, proclaiming “Israel above all,” and reaffirming Israeli values, needs, and concerns.

Alas, Blue-and-White’s strategy in Rounds Two and Three was pathetic. It was obvious that just being anti-Bibi wasn’t attractive enough to enough voters. Yet Blue-and-White tread water. It’s hard for a new party of “no” to win – especially when the ruling party boasts economic gains, diplomatic triumphs, and relative stability security-wise.

Do the math. In April 2019, Blue-and-White won 1,125,881 votes with minimal money. In September and March, the Party’s 35, then 33 MKs, received millions in government subsidies to campaign. Yet in March, the Party won 1,220,381 votes, a marginal gain. Shame on them.

So all those Lapidnikim bashing Gantz should take some responsibility – as Gantz implicitly did. Gantz-bashers should wake up: Likud won the most mandates this March, gaining 200,000 votes. Meanwhile, many critics – myself included – credit Netanyahu for handling the CoronaCrisis with maturity, vision, courage, and a credibility with the Israeli public built up over his years as Prime Minister.

So, those of us who called for him to resign, must now become resigned to him continuing.

Still, resigning ourselves to the needs of the moment – and accepting the people’s mixed message – must not blind us to the compelling reasons we abandoned Bibi over the last few years, or the principled critique Gantz articulated so well in his maiden speech.

Gantz should work with Bibi as effectively as possible – here’s his chance to prove himself politically — while articulating clear political tripwires.  Just as anyone starting a new job should park ten percent of earnings into an FU – fed up! – fund, to quit if necessary, Gantz and his allies should develop their exit strategy now. They should write out their letters of resignation, draft Gantz’s “I tried but you’re impossible” speech, and share them with Netanyahu and every coalition member before joining.

Gantz and his people must have 3 Nos: No to any more immunity talk, or any parliamentary maneuvers around Netanyahu’s court cases. If the court finds Netanyahu guilty of any charges, he must resign immediately, even while appealing the verdict. No to any bigotry, against Arabs or others. And No to any court or cop bashing. The politics of incitement, this destructive demagoguery, must end.

True, this is tonal, and sometimes subtle, but it’s essential.

There are, of course, many other potential areas of conflict, but if Gantz and company can stop Bibi and  his buddies from further polluting the political atmosphere, it will be an historic achievement. Netanyahu cannot continue making the demands he’s making on the Israeli populace as the noble Corona-buster, while being an ignoble street-fighter too. It’s time to try setting a different tone. The timing is also right to move forward with an intelligent, orderly, visionary budget finally passed, as well as some important decisions taken to get Israel, its economy, its society, and its diplomatic corps moving again.

Israel’s history has been shaped by critical decisions made by larger-than-life heroes – from Chaim Weizmann’s request that the British government “pay” for his inventions by supporting a Jewish state, to David Ben-Gurion’s decision to establish the State, to millions of individuals’ determination to make Aliyah – move here at all. If Gantz, Ashkenazi, and their allies work constructively with this new government and help stop our leaders from ranting destructively, Gantz will be welcomed into this Pantheon of Zionist Risk-Takers and State-Builders for his daring. Such moral stature will cast him as Bibi’s Jiminy Cricket – his missing conscience – rather than this modern political sorcerer’s apprentice.

If that happens, decades from now we will toast Benny Gantz, saying: had he only ended the three-peat impasse – Dayeinu, that would have been enough; had he merely united patriotically against this terrifying virus — Dayeinu, that, too, would have been enough; but that he also tamed his new boss rather than being crushed by him – Ashreinu,  wow that would be downright miraculous.

 

Recently designated one of Algemeiner’s J-100, one of the top 100 people “positively influencing Jewish life,” Gil Troy is the author of the newly-released The Zionist Ideas , an update and expansion of Arthur Hertzberg’s classic anthology The Zionist Idea, published by the Jewish Publication Society. A Distinguished Scholar of North American History at McGill University,he is the author of ten books on American History, including The Age of Clinton: America in the 1990s .   

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Copyright © 2020 Prof Gil Troy, All rights reserved.

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