January 27, 2020

Bibi and Gantz Should Put Their Country First and Unite

From left: Benny Gantz; Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Photos by Amir Cohen/Reuters

If there’s one thing that has done significant damage to Israel, it is a parliamentary system that gives inordinate power to small, extremist parties which don’t represent the Israeli mainstream. Because the electorate has been so fragmented, larger parties have been forced to hook up with smaller parties who wouldn’t mind, for example, turning Israel into a theocracy or annexing the West Bank tomorrow. 

In return for their valuable seats, these parties extract concessions that lead to divisive policies which alienate much of the Diaspora, not to mention many Israelis.

The good news is that with the results of the April 9 elections, these extremist parties can go where they belong—out of power.

For one of the rare times in Israel’s recent history, two parties—Likud and Blue and White—have garnered a significant majority of 70 seats, with each party gaining 35 seats. 

For the good of Israel, these two parties must unite.

While there are members of Likud that many would consider extremist, they’re still better than the alternatives. Moreover, in a coalition with a centrist party like Blue and White that would garner the support of the majority of Israelis, extremist impulses are more likely to be tempered.

Under the right-wing-religious coalitions of recent years, the opposite has happened. Instead of tempering their extremist impulses, the smaller parties have flaunted them. They’ve had so much power for so long they now expect to get their way. 

Having these kinds of coalitions which reject so much of the Israeli mainstream is corrosive to democracy. The Israelis who voted for two parties and 70 Knesset seats are the new Israeli mainstream, and their collective voice must be heard.

Over the next few weeks, as the traditional coalition horse trading will dominate the news, Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz have an opportunity to do something extraordinary— they can unite and take their country in a healthier direction. They can put the interest of Israel first.

Yes, it will take an enormous effort to swallow egos, bury hatchets and negotiate compromises. The looming indictment of Netanyahu further complicates the picture.  But if a center-right coalition that has the support of most Israelis and can lead to more reasonable policies is not worth the effort, nothing is.