Photo Credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90
Blue&White Chairman Benny Gantz, Supreme Court Chief Justice Esther Hayut, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, September 19, 2019.

{Originally posted to the MEF website}

The feelings of anger that the [Israeli] left is directing at Benny Gantz are exaggerated and even baseless, especially if that same left has any agenda other than “Just not Bibi.” Because the government that’s coming together is not going to be a right-wing government, certainly not the way the right would have imagined it. It’s a government which reflects that while Benjamin Netanyahu won, the right lost. It’s a government that indeed removes the cloud of personally-tailored laws that was hovering over Netanyahu’s head, but at the same time spreads heavy clouds over the head of the national camp.

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The division of portfolios between the right-wing bloc and the Blue & White alliance (Kahol Lavan) in its reduced format, without Yesh Atid, is decidedly not equal. In relation to its size and power, Gantz is getting a pretty good deal. One could argue about that, perhaps, if he hadn’t gotten the justice portfolio – whose great importance was made clear in the struggle between the High Court of Justice and Yuli Edelstein – but Netanyahu gave in even on this critical front.

The expected new cabinet reflects that while Benjamin Netanyahu won, the right lost.

That’s why it’s hard to watch the amount of venom that Blue & White voters and left-wingers have been spewing out in recent days without wondering what they’re so upset about. Gantz made a good deal from his perspective. He of course knew very well what to expect from the camp that stood behind him – and sought to push him into a minority government with the support of the Joint List – but he also knew very well that by entering a government headed by Netanyahu, under these conditions, he would serve his camp much more effectively.

The right’s failure is huge. Chili Tropper, who is slated to be justice minister, certainly won’t fight for a fair, professional judicial system the way Amir Ohana did. Gabi Ashkenazi, who built a “tolerant” army, won’t fight left-wing anarchists nor will he build a Jewish neighborhood in Hebron like Naftali Bennett was planning. And if it were up to Miki Haimovich, she would have left the natural gas – and the billions of dollars – buried in the ground.

That doesn’t mean the portfolios on offer to the other partners – education, culture, health, agriculture and transportation – are not important or politically advantageous. Bezalel Smotrich as transportation minister managed to invest in the Judea and Samaria communities by paving roads and strengthening infrastructure while bolstering his public image. The finance minister’s job can build or destroy (primarily destroy) a politician. It propelled Netanyahu to the Prime Minister’s Office, but it ruined Moshe Kahlon.

Still, the division of portfolios is doing the right wing an injustice. More than anything, it looks like Netanyahu bought the continuation of his rule at too high a price. Maybe it’s related to the indictments against him; maybe it’s because he isn’t a true right-winger. In the end, the ideological gap between him and the historical Mapai is smaller than generally thought. Netanyahu opposes the settlements, supports peace (as in the Bar-Ilan speech) and objects to seriously undermining the courts (despite the leftist incitement on this issue).

Until this most recent government, Netanyahu had always preferred moderate coalitions. It’s no coincidence that in 2013 he gave Tzipi Livni the Justice Ministry and in 2015 took Ehud Barak under his wing. He defended the legal system at every turn, and will continue to do so with Gantz. As for the annexation that Netanyahu and Trump were celebrating only a few months ago, there’s no point in talking about it now.

So the left is grumbling and raging; that’s what it usually does. But in reality, it should be content. Netanyahu won, but the right lost.

(Nave Dromi is the director of the Middle East Forum’s office in Israel)

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