Benny Gantz had a chance to embrace true democracy by leading his Blue and White alliance into a coalition government that included the Arab Joint List, which won a record 15 seats in Israel’s March election. Instead, fearing that a fourth election in the storm of the coronavirus pandemic might give his Likud rival, Benjamin Netanyahu, an even stronger hand, Gantz this week joined forces with the long-serving prime minister.
For the Palestinians living in Israel, the chance to end Likud’s stranglehold on civil rights may have fallen apart this time, but their resolve proves that, if they stand together, they can increase their voice as advocates of the principles of freedom and democracy.
We should not be surprised that the coronavirus pandemic threat has found a strong ally in the injustice that has plagued Israel since its foundation in 1948.
Gantz confirmed on Monday evening that he would form a government with Netanyahu’s Likud party — a hate group that masquerades as a political organization, which the Blue and White almost brought down. Had Gantz not been held up just short of winning the March 2 elections, he might have been able to forge a new alliance that would have included the Arab Joint List as a partner, along with other Jewish political parties interested in redirecting Israel away from apartheid and toward true democracy.
But he fell short in Israel’s third election in less than a year. Thus, Gantz found himself cutting a deal with the devil to remain viable; agreeing not only to share the leadership, but also to give Netanyahu the power of veto over who becomes the next attorney general, among other senior legal posts. Under the agreement, Netanyahu will remain prime minister for the next 18 months before handing over to Gantz, who will by then likely only have become weaker and less popular. There is even a chance that the Netanyahu-Gantz coalition might collapse before the latter gets his turn as prime minister.
For Netanyahu, the collapse of his challenger has breathed new life into his future. Netanyahu has done everything possible to block peace with the Palestinians since he first took control of the government back in 1996, when he reigned over the destruction of the Oslo Accords until he was replaced by Ehud Barak in 1999. Barak only lasted one year, and the government was then taken over by an even more sinister Israeli politician, Ariel Sharon. Netanyahu returned to power in 2009 and has held on to the reins of government ever since by pandering to the country’s growing anti-peace sentiments.
The Israeli left and Arab citizens can form a basis for hope that, in a future election, might steer the Israeli Titanic away from the iceberg.
As part of his agreement with Gantz, Netanyahu now has a clear path to annex significant parts of the West Bank this summer. The only thing that can stop annexation — which would reinforce Israel’s apartheid nature and erase the ruse of its so-called democracy — is the Arab world. If the Arab world could come together, it could take a stand to deny Israel the legitimacy it seeks.
Netanyahu faces three indictments for corruption but, if things go according to his plan, they might not lead to his conviction — another black mark against Israel’s claims that it is a democracy. No modern democracy has ever allowed an indicted leader to return to power after their term expired.
Yet, despite this week’s bad news for Israel's Palestinian minority, who have been forced to live as second-class citizens (Israel has embraced more than 60 laws that discriminate against non-Jews, specifically Palestinians), they still have a bright future. They represent 20 percent of Israel’s population and won 15 seats in the Knesset at the last election. As they continue to switch from the failed Arab strategies of rejectionism and opposition to “normalization,” their representation in the Knesset can continue to grow.
Joint List leaders Ayman Odeh and Ahmad Tibi can now form a minority coalition with the remaining leftist political parties and use it as a base to build from. For Israel’s left, Gantz is someone who compromised his principles for personal political gain at the expense of the nation’s future. Together, the Israeli left and Arab citizens can form a basis for hope that, in a future election, might steer the Israeli Titanic away from the iceberg that looms menacingly in its path.
Without genuine peace with the Palestinians, Israel’s future is under threat. The Palestinian population will continue to grow, both inside Israel and under occupation, and continued oppression will leave the door open for greater and more violent rebellion. The policies of oppression that have become Israel’s pillars cannot last forever. One day, it will all come tumbling down — the lies and Zionism’s supremacist mantra that separates people on the basis of religion.
Preserving a corrupt prime minister only leaves the door open for more corruption. Maintaining a racist society only breeds more racism and strengthens apartheid. Those are heavy burdens, even for a “survivor” like Netanyahu and a peace sell-out like Gantz.
Ray Hanania is an award-winning former Chicago City Hall political reporter and columnist. He can be reached on his personal website at www.Hanania.com. Twitter: @RayHanania