It has been predicted that General Gantz, in partnership with Lapid and the rest of the generals, will receive the largest number of seats in the next Knesset. Based on this, the head of state will first approach General Gantz and ask him to form a government under his leadership.
Gantz and the rest of the generals, who were chiefs of staff during Netanyahu’s terms, have not and will not turn into doves of peace. It is also impossible for them to accept the formation of a government that relies on Arab votes. This bloc did not take action regarding the racist Nation-State Law other than airing their intent to amend it to be less racist towards the non-Jews who served in the army. The Israeli public will accuse them of high treason if they even think of relying on the votes of Arabs, and it is not a part of their original plan. Gantz, Lapid and others in this coalition explicitly stated that they will not form a government with Arabs.
Netanyahu is approaching his political end, at least as prime minister. This is because the Attorney General recommended that he be tried on suspicion of receiving and giving bribes, and although he can continue as a Knesset member until his trial, it will weaken him as well as his bloc. Moreover, if he is convicted, he will be disgraced and may be imprisoned, or handed a suspended sentence. He will not be able to continue as a MK and will have to leave politics for a few years.
Netanyahu is trying to play the game in the stoppage time, exploiting the delusion of the “blocking bloc” with the Arabs, to frighten and provoke the public against Gantz-Lapid, while Gantz and his allies are also distancing themselves from this accusation. So where will they get members to form their government?
Most surveys still suggest Netanyahu is ahead of Gantz’s camp, and at best, they suggest that they are tied. This is based on the assumption that the Arabs are considered part of Gantz’s camp and the religious parties are a part of Netanyahu’s camp.
Since combining Lapid, the secularist, with the religious parties is a very difficult task due to the fundamental disagreements over the Sabbath and the ultra-Orthodox Jews’ (Haredis’) service in the army, for example, where will Gantz obtain people to form his government?
In truth, there are parties willing to join a coalition with Gantz-Lapid, along with the Labour and Meretz parties, especially after the recommendation of an indictment against Netanyahu. What would stop parties such as Kahlon and Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu from joining such a bloc? However, this will not be enough. This will likely be a call for a national unity government between two major blocs, such as Gantz-Lapid and the Likud. This approach will become more realistic after the recommendation for an indictment against Netanyahu, because Likud will become weak and Netanyahu’s hopes of returning as prime minister will evaporate.
Netanyahu is trying to play in the stoppage time by escalating incitement against Iran, by strengthening his relations with Putin, by announcing excellent relations with some Arab countries, his diplomatic “conquests” in Africa, and by announcing the deduction of Palestinian money under the pretext of it going to families of prisoners and martyrs. However, none of this will help him after an indictment is brought against him for corruption and bribery.
Many things have happened since Rabin’s government signed the Oslo Accords with Yasser Arafat. The Arab vote to support a government went to the Oslo Accords. That was the last left-wing government in the history of Israel and Meretz was one of its pillars. The so-called “doves” In the Labor party dominated the party, while we cannot call Gantz and his fellow generals left-wing or even centre parties.
In Israeli politics and its current components and structures on the horizon, all scenarios are possible, with the exception of a government based on the votes of the Arabs. This is known by those who are hinting at a “blocking bloc” with the participation of the Arabs.
It is most likely that the next government will be a “national unity” government, at the centre of which lies two major blocs, the Gantz-Lapid bloc and Likud. This is provided that Netanyahu is not a part of it. This condition was stipulated by Lapid in order for him to join a national unity government with Likud, if charges are brought against him, which seems likely.
This article first appeared in Arabic in Arab48 on 28 February 2019
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.