For a brief moment last week, Israel looked close to getting the national unity government that much of its electorate seeks when beleaguered Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signaled that he was prepared to share power with the “Blue and White” led by Benny Gantz.
But Gantz immediately shot down the proposal, calling it a thinly-veiled attempt by Netanyahu to avoid prosecution over a series of graft charges.
More than that, Gantz insisted that Blue and White soon wouldn’t need to make a deal on Netanyahu’s terms (which still include acquiescing to ultra-Orthodox coalition demands), since the latter’s “reign” was rapidly reaching its end.
“At the end of the day, Netanyahu has an expiration date,” Israel’s Channel 12 News quoted Gantz as telling party confidantes last week.
Gantz reportedly made the remark in the context of walking back his campaign promise to not sit in a coalition with Netanyahu, which he might now be ready to do, but not on the prime minister’s terms.
Rather, Gantz has warmed to President Reuven Rivlin’s unity government proposal. Under that deal, Netanyahu and Gantz would rotate as prime minister, but should a formal indictment be filed against Netanyahu, he would take an open-ended leave of absence, leaving Gantz to govern alone.
There are indications that as soon as a new government is formed and the investigations into Netanyahu’s alleged misconduct resume in earnest, an indictment could be filed within months, if not weeks.
According to Channel 12, the heads of Blue and White would be willing to “hold their noses for a number of months” while serving with Netanyahu, and then deal with the presumably-more-amenable Likud leadership that arises following his hoped-for demise.
And that alternative Likud leadership appears to be eagerly waiting in the wings. When Netanyahu last week briefly suggested an early party primary, at least two popular Likud figures were quick to declare their readiness to challenge Israel’s longest-serving prime minister.
In fact, to call Netanyahu merely “beleaguered” at this point is a massive understatement. The situation right now has the look of a dying animal being circled by an ever-growing swarm of vultures just waiting to pick clean the bones of his carcass.
Two prominent left-wing journalists, Oded Ben-Ami and Amnon Abramovich, went so far as to partially recite the kaddish prayer during a discussion of Netanyahu’s situation on Channel 12 News last week. Kaddish is the traditional prayer recited when someone has died.
The two were broadly condemned for what many saw as incitement to violence against Israel’s duly-elected prime minister, the irony being that it is the Left that typically accuses right-wing elements, including Netanyahu, of encouraging division and hostility within the nation.