The Irish Times view on Israeli politics: Gantz names his price

Retired general seemed to break deadlock with agreement to rotate premiership with Netanyahu

The decision by Benny Gantz to break solemn election promises not to serve in government with Israel’s embattled and widely discredited prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu does not mean he will actually end up in such a coalition. Photograph: Jack Guez/AFP via Getty Images

The decision by Benny Gantz to break solemn election promises not to serve in government with Israel’s embattled and widely discredited prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu does not mean he will actually end up in such a coalition. Photograph: Jack Guez/AFP via Getty Images

 

There’s many a slip between cup and lip. And the decision by Benny Gantz to break solemn election promises not to serve in government with Israel’s embattled and widely discredited prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu does not mean he will actually end up in such a coalition. Difficult talks between the parties have been extended as rifts appear in their ranks on both left and far right.

Gantz’s decision seemed to break the post-election deadlock with an agreement to rotate the prime minister post, allowing Netanyahu to stay on for a further 18 months and staving off further looming prosecution for corruption.

Gantz also extracted a commitment by Netanyahu to give Gantz’s centre-left Blue and White alliance a number of places in cabinet reflecting the 33 seats won by the alliance in the election, even though it can only now command 17 seats since two factions broke away. Netanyahu’s right-wing and religious allies are furious.

Gantz may have lost a large part of this support base but, by insisting on his own appointment as speaker of the Knesset as precondition for talks, has given himself remarkable power singlehandedly to order the parliament’s business and block measures by the government he disapproves of. It takes 91 votes now to unseat him.

The right is also fearful that Netanyhahu’s willingness to give Gantz supporters control of the defence and justice ministries in the new coalition may, among other things, stymie plans to annex the West Bank. Netanyahu’s Likud party has 36 seats in the 120-seat Knesset, but the prime minister is now the only figure capable of mustering a majority. Persuading Gantz to join him in government was a major coup, but he may have underestimated the former military general.

The latter is determined to extract a hefty price for his co-operation, in part to justify his volte face, in part to retain the leverage he needs to ensure that Netanyahu does actually hand over the reins of power in 18 months.

Coalition-building in Dublin is simple by comparison.

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