Many of us are wondering, “does Benny Gantz have the spine and the savvy to handle Bibi Netanyahu – or will he become yet another Bibi-patsy?” Warning, Sunday’s headlines – “LIKUD LAUNCHES ASSAULT ON PROSECUTION AHEAD OF BENJAMIN NETANYAHU TRIAL” put the moral and political challenge starkly: Will Bibi’s shamelessness become Gantz’s shame too?
Gantz cannot wait until this National Emergency Government is launched. He must stand tall now, demonstrating that, finally, someone from within will stand up to Bibi Netanyahu and his Likud goons, using whatever leverage over Bibi he has to save Israel’s soul.
This is the speech Gantz should give, immediately, and it must be echoed by every member of Blue-and-White, especially by Yoaz Hendel and Zvi Hauser, unless they named their party “Derek Eretz” ironically not sincerely:
“Citizens of Israel, the Likud’s leaders, and my potential coalition partner, Benjamin Netanyahu: The demagogic attacks on the Attorney General, the prosecution, and the Courts must stop or we will stop cooperating with the Likud. We are joining this National Emergency Government to fight the Coronavirus pandemic – not to feed the epidemic of cynicism and incitement against Israel’s most cherished institutions, most precious values, and most extraordinary accomplishments.
Israel’s democracy is one of the manmade miracles we just celebrated on Independence Day. Many of us have parents or grandparents who immigrated here from undemocratic countries – in my case from Hungary and Romania. Yet we created a democracy here. As Jews, we were steeped in democratic principles such as every person’s equality and dignity. We had long ago started arguing ‘round the clock. And we were raised for millennia to respect the rule of law. As a long-oppressed people, we had a built-in allergy to dictators and totalitarianism, which compensated for our inexperience with formal democratic mechanisms in sovereign states. Finally, as Zionists, we were equally committed to establishing a Jewish state and a democratic one: David Ben-Gurion and Ze’ev Jabotinsky were archrivals, but each envisioned a Jewish democracy.
The Likud’s founder, Menachem Begin, revered “the supremacy of the law.” In opposition and in power, he respected the state and its institutions, especially the judiciary. In June, 1948, he reluctantly accepted Ben-Gurion’s authority after the Altalena’s sinking, refusing to play the demagogue and risk civil war – overruling comrades who demanded he resist. In 1979, Begin reluctantly accepted the Supreme Court’s authority when it invalidated the Elon Moreh settlement, proclaiming “the government is obligated to honor and carry out whatever the Court decided” — again overruling colleagues – this time Cabinet Ministers – who demanded defiance.
We are the custodians of this remarkable infrastructure. None of us dare besmirch it or undermine it. Especially in these cynical times, we are obligated to respect it and reinforce it.
I understand, Mr. Prime Minister, that the charges you face are serious – and infuriating to you and your supporters. I support your democratic rights to fight like hell for exoneration in the court – but I demand that you keep this fight off the streets and off-line. Here’s the deal: I won’t interfere in the defense you and your lawyers mount when your day in court comes. But you and your allies must end these public attacks on the court and its officers.
Surely, you don’t want to go down in history as the leader who undid Begin’s legacies – either in fostering national unity or in maintaining – and HONORING – our institutions. And I certainly won’t help you.
The French novelist Honoré de Balzac warned that “lack of confidence in the judiciary is the beginning of the end of society.” This spring, Israel has again shown the world how strong our society is, how resilient we are, how orderly, disciplined, and ethical we can be. Much of it was thanks to the pioneers before us. But much of it was thanks to you and your leadership – which is why my people and I agreed to join you at this moment, despite our reservations.
Why would you want to destroy all that we the Jewish people – with our Arab and non-Arab fellow citizens – have built over the years here? Why would you tarnish your own legacy in this realm?
My people and I will not be your enablers. We won’t collaborate in any undemocratic or anti-democratic acts. And we won’t dismantle all the good we built here over the decades.
Bibi, call off the dogs now – and keep them muzzled. Let’s build this country together, strengthening this society, reinforcing its democratic institutions and values – not trash them or threaten them.
Menachem Begin liked to say: “There are judges in Jerusalem.” It’s a marvelous phrase. It evokes Moses our lawgiver and Joshua his heirs; it toasts our Book of Judges – and all the Biblical moments when even kings respected the law. It sends us time traveling through the glorious moments when we had sovereignty, safety and sanity in our homeland – and the horrors when despots and killers ruled over us illegally, here and in Exile. And it celebrates our tremendous achievements as Zionists establishing an old-new perfectly-imperfect democracy in our homeland, one of the world’s few functional democracies with Rule of Law.
We in Kachol-Lavan will do everything we can to preserve that proud tradition. We will be the first to defy you if you won’t partner with us on this. It is a compelling obligation of every democratic leader – to foster faith in who we are and how we function, for our sake and for our children’s.”
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 .