Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu riled up right-wing fears that his rival Benny Gantz would make a dangerous pact with the Joint Arab List in order to establish a ruling minority coalition.
Next week, President Reuven Rivlin will decide which politician to task with forming the next government based on the recommendations of all Knesset members. Netanyahu had expected to be tapped due to his Likud party winning the most seats, but the right-wing bloc as a whole is three seats shy of a majority.
That means that if Gantz can secure the recommendations of all 62 Knesset members who aren’t part of the right-wing bloc, he will be chosen by Rivlin to form the next government.
But that requires the backing of the Joint Arab List. And that won’t come cheap. In fact, Netanyahu has been warning for months that Gantz will pay a price detrimental to the future of the Jewish state in service to what has become a personal vendetta.
And he might be right.
On Tuesday, Joint List chairman Aymen Odeh announced the number one condition for even entering into talks with Gantz and his “Blue and White” party–a total ban on all Jewish visitation to the Temple Mount.
That’s right, the Arabs won’t even consider backing Gantz as prime minister unless his first act is to forbid Jews to visit Judaism’s holiest site, let alone pray there, which is already prohibited.
Many have lambasted Netanyahu for what they call his “racist” approach to the Arab factions. But those same critics seem unwilling to likewise call Odeh’s demand “racist,” despite the fact that it specifically targets the Jewish people and their faith in a way reminiscent of how the Nazis, prior to establishing the death camps, forbid Jews from mingling with the “purer” races and religions.
“Blue and White” deputy leader Yair Lapid insisted in an impassioned Facebook post that cooperation with the Joint List would be a one-time thing for the sake of establishing a minority coalition, and that the Arabs would not be part of Gantz’s government.
This, Lapid stressed, “is not the government we wanted,” but it is preferable to a fourth election, the date of which has already been set for September, just in case.
As many on the Right have suggested, Gantz, Lapid and most of their party are engaging in wishful thinking.
According to Lapid, the Joint Arab List “will vote once from the outside [to enable the formation of a minority government], and there it will end.”
But what will happen if Gantz doesn’t follow through on further restricting the religious freedoms of Jews in Israel? What if he fails to comply with the Joint List’s other demands, such as destroying Israel’s nuclear arsenal or uprooting all Jewish “settlers” from Judea and Samaria?
Odeh perhaps despises Netanyahu even more than Gantz does, but that might not stop the Joint List from voting in favor of a Likud-submitted vote of no-confidence should “Blue and White” fail to toe the Arab line.
Fresh off its most impressive showing yet at the polls, the Joint Arab List might even prefer to further try its luck in a fourth election. And that makes Gantz’s willingness to rely on the patronage of the Arabs, rather than discuss unity with Netanyahu, potentially game-changing for the Jews.