Although Gantz, the current Defense minister in Netanyahu Cabinet, has changed into a despised character to many in Israel, it seems he’s not going to leave election this year, anytime soon.
Last year, amid the breakthrough of the pandemic, Benny Gantz broke his biggest election vow, and accepted to form a unified government with Benjamin Netanyahu. Israel had gone through three unsuccessful elections, and this was the only solution to save the country. Gantz formed a national unity government with Netanyahu, and as the result, he lost many of his supporters.
Just as the country was to rescue itself from plunging into the swamp of Coronavirus pandemic, Israel’s political system became paralyzed. The government was a chaos and the disagreement between coalition parties was increasing. According to polls, the majority of Israelis, including the majority of Blue and White backers, preferred unity.
A national poll was taken on February 6, 2020, which was nearly a month before Gantz’s decision to unify with Netanyahu that revealed 52 percent of Israelis support a Gantz-Netanyahu coalition government, while only 26% opposed it. Even after seven weeks, people’s tendency to unification increased. The result of a new poll showed that 61% of Israelis were interested in unity.
However, Gantz lost his reputation and the country is going to hold another election in two weeks. To many of the center-left, Gantz is known as a man who betrayed them while they had the assumption that he could be counted on.
Although Blue and White is on the verge of dropping out of the Knesset, demands for Gantz to leave the race are increasing. Many call Gantz a “Benjamin Netanyahu soldier,” and they say if he is given the opportunity, he would once again enter a Netanyahu cabinet.
In social media, he has been often ridiculed. Outside his house in Rosh Ha’ayin, demonstrations are taking place. On Twitter, one influential activist summarized the protesters’ motivations like this:
“1. He’s treacherous. 2. He’s spineless. 3. He’s dangerous to the bloc because he’s currently the most likely [center-left party] not to pass the threshold. 4. He must pay for his actions. 5. He’s an embarrassment to politics who makes many not want to vote.”
But the point is that with the poll results which show the fact that pro- and anti-Netanyahu camps are almost evenly matched, if Gantz remains in the race but falls short of the 3.25 percent vote threshold, the loss of those votes for the center-left could tip the election in Netanyahu’s favor.
Now, after this turbulent year, Israel is waiting for another election in March. Gantz has no plan to pull out — not because he wants to be in politics, but because his leaving will makes Netanyahu stronger.
In an interview, Gantz asserted “I’m the supreme gatekeeper. If I don’t exist, then the system is unprotected. If I don’t exist, there’s no more attorney general. If I don’t exist, there’s one-man rule by Netanyahu. And I won’t let that happen.”
According to critics, what Gantz is thinking about, is to become the “alternate prime minister.” This role was first created when Gantz and Netanyahu were to unify their governments. Seemingly, it would be filled by one of the two men who was not serving as Prime Minister at the time.
But what can the alternate prime minster do? The alternate PM can veto every vote in the cabinet, and he himself can only dismiss ministers he has chosen. Article 5B of the Basic Law says: “A prime minister, and in an alternating [i.e., rotation] government — also an alternate prime minister — shall be a Member of Knesset.”