Friday, May 20th | 19 Iyyar 5782

March 24, 2020 7:26 am

Calling for a Unity Government in Israel

avatar by Isi Leibler


Israeli President Reuven Rivlin opens the first session of Israel’s new parliament, in an unprecedentedly toned-down ceremony carried out amid the global coronavirus scare. Photo: Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH, Reuters Marketplace – DPA Multimedia Wire via Reuters.

We are experiencing a global nightmare that could result in many deaths. No one could have anticipated the extent of the coronavirus impact. The tragic images emerging from Italy are now also occurring across the globe. We are still trying to comprehend and learn how to navigate through this nightmare.

In this context, the efforts of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Health Ministry officials deserve the highest praise. While it is unfortunately unlikely that Israel will be able to prevent the spread of the virus, the Netanyahu government has nevertheless been leading the Western world in imposing strict measures to slow the pace.

As of now, many Israelis, possibly including some who voted against him, are relieved that Netanyahu is currently in control. They might be concerned at the thought of opposition leaders like Benny Gantz, Moshe Ya’alon, or Yair Lapid governing the nation and making life-and-death decisions.

One would assume that in face of such an unprecedented global health crisis, it would be obvious that a national unity government would be formed. But not so in this country. If ever there was a time for a national unity government, it is now. There is a consensus across the entire population that it is imperative, so why can’t our politicians get their act together? Are they so detached from the urgency of the situation that they do not see what everyone else sees?

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It is beyond belief when one reads columnists in Haaretz pontificating that Bibi is a far greater threat than the coronavirus. Netanyahu appeared on the main TV channels on Saturday night and set out the terms of his offer for a national unity government. He offered the Blue and White Party equal government representation with the right-wing bloc, with the key ministries of defense and foreign affairs, and undertook that he would resign as prime minister after 18 months.

But within minutes, Lapid tweeted that Bibi is a liar and can’t be trusted, and Ya’alon proclaimed on TV that it really doesn’t matter what Netanyahu says or offers — he cannot be trusted and he must resign.

I have always respected Ya’alon as a man of integrity who placed the nation above all. But his bitter hatred has blinded him. Does he really believe Gantz is capable of leading Israel in this crisis? And even if we set aside all reservations about him, is now the time to replace a leader who has demonstrated that he was ahead of the rest of the world in tackling this crisis?

Gantz has been offered the opportunity to become prime minister in 18 months, when hopefully the coronavirus will be behind us. For the sake of the country, we urge opposition leaders to set aside their hatred and focus solely on the welfare of this nation. There is no alternative but to form a national unity government at this time of emergency. Those who oppose this are literally putting our lives at risk. History will not forgive them.

Isi Leibler is an Israeli columnist. His website can be viewed at He may be contacted at [email protected]

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