With less than two days ahead of the seemingly inevitable dissolution of the 22nd Israeli Parliament, or Knesset in Hebrew, Jerusalem’s political rivals are gearing up for their respective campaigns, making every perceived effort to distance themselves from possible blame for the country’s unprecedented third round of elections.
Former IDF Chief of Staff and Blue and White Chairman Benny Gantz used a faction meeting in Jerusalem yesterday to call upon his main rival, incumbent Prime Minister and Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu, to place the good of Israel over his own personal interests. Gantz sought to attribute full responsibility for Jerusalem’s political deadlock to Netanyahu – alleging that the longest serving Israeli leader was exploiting the post of Prime Minister for the sake of maintaining immunity from legal prosecution. He said “Dozens of hours we sat in negotiations rooms. Netanyahu remains with the same mantra, immunity block, demand to remain first and a complete veto on advancing basic principles. Zero time on essence. Bricks on top of bricks of words over complicated structures of immunity. And despite that even today the chances of avoiding these unnecessary and costly elections remain. Netanyahu should place Israel before Netanyahu. He should take action.”
In spite of the long list of accusations levelled against Premier, Benny Gantz repeated his call to Benjamin Netanyahu to immediately forego his eligibility for immunity from prosecution. Gantz stressed that once Netanyahu publicly pledges to waive parliamentary immunity, the Blue and White political bloc would immediately recommit itself to negotiations with the ruling Likud party toward the establishment of a unity government coalition – spearing Israel from yet another round of elections.
According to the Blue and White Chairman, “I repeat my call to the Prime Minister, I repeat today what I told you [and] your representative from the first day of negotiations – if you give up the immunity we are partners for the beginning of a discourse. You have already dragged us into elections twice because of the immunity. You barricaded yourself against the core values of the block for immunity. And even now, you think that another round of elections will grant you a majority [within the parliament], which will [in turn] grant you immunity. I urge you to publicly pledge that you will not ask for immunity. I urge you to do so today, so that we can exhaust the next two days in direct negotiations, without the immunity blockade, on establishing a unity government- [if you do] we will find the way [to form a government]. We’ll spare the people of Israel from elections, we will stop to focusing on ourselves as politicians, and start working for the citizens of Israel.”
Gantz also sought to response to those who support Netanyahu, regardless of the latter’s legal predicament. He stressed that the state of Israel, which was founded in the spirit of the biblical prophets of Israel, and on the basis of justice, cannot accept a Prime Minister with concrete corruption charges. “In the State of Israel, founded on the foundation of justice, in the spirit of the prophets of Israel – the Prime Minister must set an example for the public. This is also an issue of values and norms, and not only a practical issue of dates in a calendar. In an enlightened state, a Prime Minister cannot be accused of bribery. We face significant challenges from home and abroad, so we should start addressing them,” Gantz argued.
The Prime Minister’s ruling Likud party immediately rejected Gantz’s proposal but evaded the question of whether Netanyahu would seek immunity from prosecution. Instead, the Likud sought to lay the blame for Jerusalem’s political impasse on Blue and White and its chairman Benny Gantz.