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October 5, 2020 5:15 am

Is COVID-19 the Only Thing Holding Israel’s Government Together?

avatar by Mati Tuchfeld / JNS.org

Opinion

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Alternate Prime Minister and Defence Minister Benny Gantz attend the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem June 7, 2020. Photo: Menahem Kahana/Pool via REUTERS.

JNS.org – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may have aspired to limit anti-government protests during the pandemic, but the bill seeking to curtail the demonstrations has only spurred them on.

It’s getting harder to argue that all protesters are “anarchists.” When you see entire families standing on a bridge calmly, holding signs and flags, you cannot compare them to the self-professed anarchists rioting outside the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem. Clearly, anti-government protests now encompass the entire left.

Consider this, however: The protests may be a problem for Netanyahu, but they pose a bigger problem for Blue and White leader Benny Gantz. The protesters comprise mostly what he sees as his base, even though most of them — stunned by Gantz’s decision to join forces with Netanyahu despite his explicit campaign promises — are highly unlikely to vote for him again.

Blue and White’s decision to support the bill limiting protests was a new low in the party’s short history, and many believe Tourism Minister Asaf Zamir’s decision to resign over the vote will herald similar moves.

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The aftershocks of Zamir’s decision are rattling the chairs of several ministers — perhaps even the one under Gantz.

Right now, it seems the only thing keeping him in the government is the slim chance that the coalition will survive long enough for the rotation agreement to take effect in November 2021, making him prime minister.

This is why Gantz continues to hold his tongue, and this is why he will also have to support Netanyahu’s demand to pass a law ensuring he will be able to serve as prime minister-designate when Blue and White take over, as stated in the coalition agreement, regardless of any ruling to the contrary by the High Court of Justice.

Since Zamir dropped his political bombshell, Gantz has been busy with damage control. The rapid nomination of Knesset member Orit Farkash Hacohen as Zamir’s replacement, ordering Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn to appoint a state attorney, and releasing statements “understanding” Zamir’s decision were all meant to appease his vexed constituents, although it is doubtful it did any good.

Logic dictates that the national unity government should have dissolved by now. Blue and White has been acting as an internal opposition within the coalition for a long time, all but crippling the government.

In the current political reality — and thanks to several articles in the coalition agreement — Netanyahu cannot fire Blue and White ministers, giving them the option to publicly attack him, violate coalition discipline, and undermine the very government in which they sit.

Under these circumstances, another general election no longer sounds like the worst possible scenario. Not when you look at the alternatives — because it is becoming very clear that there are now alternatives. The previous transitional government was able to quell the coronavirus, and a future government may be able to do so again. Right now, however, it seems that COVID-19 is the only thing keeping the unity government alive.

Mati Tuchfeld writes for Israel Hayom.

This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.

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