Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday addressed National Union Chairman Benny Gantz, inviting him to return to negotiations on judicial reform. The negotiations broke down near the end of the Knesset summer session.
“We have many differences, but we also have a lot in common,” Netanyahu said. “The majority of the people expect us to do something for a common goal. They want us to reach agreements.”
Gantz replied a short while later, saying that “there is no one to talk to at this time,” calling Netanyahu’s call for talks a new spin.
Gantz then presented his plan to use Netanyahu’s apparent weakness (otherwise, why would he ask for compromise) as an opportunity for new elections.
“I do not trust Netanyahu,” he said unambiguously, and added, “This is a government whose majority does not reflect the majority of the public, not even the majority of the public that elected it. This is an extremist minority that does not have a majority among the voters, that decided to dismantle the democratic values of the State of Israel, and this minority is degenerating us toward the abyss. At this time, the crisis reached its legal stage.”
In other words, Gantz expects the court to do his bidding and take down Netanyahu and his government.
There’s no daylight between what Gantz declared Tuesday night and what the anarchists have been chanting in the county’s streets and public institutions since January.
For months now, and despite its weakness and inability to pass the judicial reform it had been promising, Netanyahu’s government was united by the knowledge that its coalition partners could never hope to repeat the electoral miracle of 64 mandates, and therefore they are forced to follow Ben Franklin’s sage advice, “We must all hang together, or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.”
However, on Tuesday, United Torah Judaism leader MK Moshe Gafni started to sing a different tune. Gafni said: “We will consider how we move forward with the reform, we need to do our calculations, is it correct the way it’s been going until now, we in UTJ will have to do the math, I assume that in Shas as well there are important things that need to be done, I’m not sure that this is the way we continue, on the same track, we may go on other tracks.”
I purposefully left his interminable speech the way it gushed out, which was, basically, a parting song.
Housing Minister Yitzhak Goldknopf, UTJ’s other leader, was even less opaque about his intent to jump out of the sinking ship without his suitcase: “We have nothing to do with anything related to the judicial reform, our support is only within the framework of the coalition commitment. We will support any decision by Netanyahu to reach agreements.”
The Likud were quick to slam Gantz – they probably had the text ready before Netanyahu made his proposal: “He continues the boycotts and again runs away from any attempt to reach agreements – zero in leadership, zero in statesmanship.”
But Likud Central had nothing to say at this point to their Haredi partners.
The harsh electoral reality is that UTJ will get its 7 seats in the next election, and Shas its 8 to 10, depending on various circumstances. And they can peddle this chunk of political power when the time comes. The Haredi street indeed loathes Yair Lapid, but the Haredim could pressure Likud, Gantz, and Liberman into a coalition without Smotrich and Ben Gvir. Likud may even be forced into a government with Gantz at the helm if his poll numbers continue to soar.
This could be Netanyahu’s third electoral defeat, and he might bring down religious Zionism with him.