At present, the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) is still an interim government. However, the coronavirus crisis has now forced the two larger parties and their blocs to attempt to form an emergency unity government. Two main roadblocks are hindering the formation of a unity government. The Likud and Blue & White, continue to meet despite their disagreements.
The First Roadblock: DESTROYING OUR DEMOCRACY
One roadblock is Likud’s demand for legislation preventing the High Court of Justice to rule on Netanyahu’s right to serve as Prime Minister as he faces three charges of corruption.
Gantz, leader of Blue & White and currently Knesset speaker, wants legislation that would bar an MK under indictment from serving as Prime Minister (meaning Netanyahu.) This would change the ‘Basic Law’, which can only happen by winning a vote. At least 61 Knesset Members must vote for the change. ‘Basic Laws’ form the roots of democracy in Israel. Clause 18 stipulates that the Prime Minister may continue in office even if under indictment. The law also states that the Prime Minister can remain in office even if a district court convicts him of a crime carrying moral turpitude because the ruling can be appealed before the Supreme Court. He would only be removed from office if the Supreme Court rejects such an appeal and the ruling becomes final.
In most democracies, the accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond any reasonable doubt. If found guilty and convicted, the accused can still appeal. In the case of Israel’s Basic Laws, the decision by the administrative authority to try someone doesn’t make the elected official guilty. The lawmakers rightly believed that a public official (unelected judges, or Attorney General) should not be empowered with the authority to dismiss a Prime Minister. In a democratic country, the will of the people is the foundation of democracy. The Prime Minister is chosen by the public. An Attorney-General or a court cannot and should not intervene in the political arena and dismiss an elected official. This is what the Likud and Netanyahu are objecting to.
Israel needs to maintain its strength and stability during the storm that rages around us. Just before the current coronavirus crisis, Israel faced the possibility of a government coalition that would include the Joint Arab List with its anti-Jewish leaders. The Joint Arab List is made up of Israeli Arab factions whose leaders reject Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. Israel, being a democracy, allows ANY elected Israeli citizen to serve as a Knesset member (a member of the Parliament,) even when they openly support Palestinian terrorism and the Palestinian cause. Some of them publically object Israel’s right to self-determination and accuse an Israeli army general of war crimes against the Palestinians in the international court. Hence, it was surprising that the Blue & White party, which is made up of three Israeli army generals would admit those Arab leaders in their bloc. Many Israelis objected, and even within the bloc, there was an outrage, causing some members to leave the party.
Leader of Blue & White, Benny Gantz and another former IDF chief, Gabi Ashkenazi agreed to Prime Minister Netanyahu’s call to try to form a unity government with Netanyahu’s right-wing bloc. The Arab Joint List pulled out, thereby the disaster that would have endangered Israel’s identity as being the State of the Jews was avoided.
The Second Roadblock: ESTABLISHING BORDERS
Gantz announced very proudly that without him, Netanyahu cannot form a government. The thought that Netanyahu needs him, gave him the power to increase his demands, which were disproportional to the size of his bloc compared to the Likud. He may have had the interest of the nation in mind and the urgent need for unity at this crucial time, but he is taking advantage of the situation to try and force Netanyahu to give in to his demands.
Does Gantz understand the need at this time for clear, bold strategic actions to maintain Israel’s stability in the region? Israel must fortify the borders, making clear Israel’s intention to defend them. Our neighbors must know exactly where Israel’s red lines are and not to cross them.
Israel’s borders with Egypt and Lebanon are clear, and by annexing the Golan heights a few years back (and thanks to US recognition of Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights), the border with Syria is clear. These neighbors know where the line is located, but not so on the eastern border. The eastern border is problematic as well as Judea and Samaria.
Now we have the opportunity to apply national law (annexation) to the Jordan Valley and Northern Dead Sea region. This will prevent confusion and uncertainty. With the help of President Trump’s peace plan, Israel can expand its communities, and direct transportation, road infrastructures in the Valley to link the eastern area to the rest of the country.
Gantz is concerned that this move will jeopardize the peace with Jordan. Therefore, he thinks Israel must first receive Jordan’s approval before applying its law to the border. But empowering Jordan with the right to define Israel’s border, will also empower the most extremist among the Jordanians and will contribute to Jordan’s instability. It is therefore in the best interest of Jordan and of maintaining the peace with Israel that the eastern border is clearly set. The same is true regarding the Palestinian Authority in Judea and Samaria.
There are more than 300,000 Israelis in Judea and Samaria who must be connected to Israel proper. Even the Health Ministry agrees that annexing Judea and Samaria will provide better care in the coronavirus crisis for all its citizens.
The PA authority in the territory also benefits from Israeli know-how and guidance in dealing with this crisis, thereby increasing the stability of the region. The more certainty and stability Israel conveys, the more the Palestinians in Judea and Samaria will agree to live in peace with Israel. By opposing the application of Israel’s sovereignty in these areas at this time, Gantz and his bloc uphold the left’s naive and false belief that the only way to peace is through appeasement.
The worst period of Palestinian terror occurred when Israel compromised the most, and failed to determine clear boundaries. We must not allow this to happen again.