In mid-May, 2016, PM Benjamin Netanyahu did to his defense minister, Moshe Ya’alon, what he had done to practically everybody who had ever worked for him: kicked him down to the curb as soon as doing so made sense politically. In that particular case, Netanyahu was luring Israel Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Liberman back into his coalition government, and Liberman wanted the defense portfolio. Bibi was going to give Ya’alon the foreign ministry, but the former IDF chief of staff had it up to here. He resigned and issued a statement that he had lost his faith in the prime minister.
A few years later, it was Liberman’s turn to resign his post in disgust, which he followed by sticking it to Netanyahu through three election campaigns (so far) and aligning with Ya’alon, who had meanwhile joined the Blue&White party, the first political party in more than a decade with a realistic chance of ousting Bibi.
Like the proverbial Lion in Winter, near the end of his illustrious career Netanyahu is surrounded by scores of his vengeful enemies, including a few who still pretend to be his friends despite the humiliation they had suffered under him over the years – Naftali Bennett, Ayelet Shaked and Bezalel Smotrich come to mind.
But Ya’alon stands out among Bibi’s haters, because he appears to have traded every last vestige of his ideology for the chance to watch his former boss rolling in the mud. He told army radio on Thursday: “We will set up whatever government it would take to unseat Netanyahu.”
“The election results presented us with a dilemma,” the soldier who until very recently prided himself on his honesty and decency said: “Which election promise should we violate? In this case, removing Netanyahu is our highest goal. We have no choice but to seek the support of the Joint Arab List.”
To be clear, Ya’alon will forever be remembered for throwing a fit in a TV interview only days prior to the March 2 election, when the interviewer suggested there was no mathematical combination for a Blue&White government that did not include the Joint Arab List. He yelled at the poor interviewer, accusing him of lying, he looked moments away from tearing off his mic and storming offstage.
Well, he’s calmer now, discussing the arithmetic of violating his promises to his voters. He did throw another tantrum the other day, threatening two of his own faction members, MKs Hendel and Hauser, who, like Ya’alon had been chewed up and spat out by Netanyahu, but who also refuse to break their promise to the voter not to align with the Joint Arab List, not because they’re Arabs, but because they do not recognize Israel as a Jewish state.
The majority of the Arab list MKs are prepared to hold their breath and recommend Blue&White chairman Benny Gantz to President Reuven Rivlin as the most qualified to form the next government. The problem is with the most viciously anti-Israeli faction within the Arab list, Balad, whose leaders risk alienating their own voters should they endorse Gantz. At this point, the Arb list, which, like Ya’alon, understands that you have to betray your principles in order to defeat Netanyahu, plans to condition its endorsement on the repeal of the 2017 Kaminitz Law which enhanced punishment for illegal construction; abandoning the promise of imposing Israeli law in the settlements; and banning religious Jews from the Temple Mount. That last one has been denied by a few Joint Arab List MKs, who admitted that it is part of their party platform, but not necessarily a precondition for supporting Gantz.
Should Gantz win the assignment from the president to cobble together a government in 42 days, his first move would likely be to replace Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein (Likud) with MK Meir Cohen (Blue&White). He will then attempt to erect a minority government that could survive a vote of no confidence. With Netanyahu facing the start of his criminal trial next week, Gantz could eke out something. Maybe not long lasting, but something.