Benny Gantz Lost His Nerve; Nothing Changed in Israel

Joseph Dana
4 min readApr 7, 2020

Anyone who has followed Israel’s election saga over the last year cannot be surprised by the events that transpired last week. After three trips to the voting booth, in early March Israelis gave Benny Gantz, a former army general, a narrow majority to form a ruling coalition. Such a coalition would have been the political end of Benjamin Netanyahu, who is under criminal indictment. But there is a wrinkle to the story. The last election also gave the Palestinian-led Joint List party its strongest showing ever, thanks to a massive turnout by Palestinians.

If Gantz could have formed a union with the Palestinians, a parliamentary coalition representing all of Israel’s citizens would have taken power for the first time in the country’s history. For the small number of remaining Israeli liberals and international observers, the prospect of a government of true unity was exceptionally exciting and much was written over the past weeks heralding a new era in the country’s democracy. But it was never going to happen and those who thought otherwise were deluding themselves.

Only in the wildest of liberal dreams would a mainstream politician like Gantz have formed a partnership with the Palestinians. To be sure, Netanyahu did his best to foil any attempt by Gantz to form such a coalition with the Joint List. His government used the coronavirus outbreak as an excuse to muzzle Israel’s democratic institutions, while his Likud party ramped up incitements against the Joint List and even tried to block the election of a new speaker of parliament.

Yet, despite such pressure from Netanyahu, all Gantz had to do was to find some courage to forge a partnership with the Joint List. That would have required dismissing some of his Blue and White party members who strongly opposed such a partnership. But that would have been nothing compared to the looming prospect of yet another election — this time in the middle of a pandemic.

It would have been straightforward except for one thing: Gantz was never interested in working with the Palestinians. As a lifelong military man of the political center-right/right, the notion of partnership with Palestinians runs counter to his entire political being. That a mainstream party in Israel would be interested in a genuine power-sharing agreement…

Joseph Dana