A unity government is preferred by many Israelis (& video: Tom Gross on Benny Gantz)

September 20, 2019


Israeli President Reuven Rivlin (center) uniting Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz (right) in a three-way handshake yesterday at a memorial service for the late president Shimon Peres. Many in Israel would like Rivlin to force the two leaders to form a national unity government following Tuesday’s inconclusive elections, the second Israel has held this year.

The Blue and White coalition led by Gantz gained 33 seats. Netanyahu’s Likud party gained 31 seats. Each would need to persuade several smaller parties to back them to form a government, or alternatively they could join forces to form a unity government. Seven other parties with a very diverse range of views and agendas entered the 120-seat Israeli parliament.



I’ve given a number of interviews following Tuesday’s Israeli elections, including two to BBC Arabic TV, which broadcasts across the Arab world.

The following interview is from Israel’s Channel 13 news yesterday evening. My remarks start in English at 43 seconds into the video.


Tom Gross on international views of Israeli elections. How will Benny Gantz be viewed if he becomes Prime Minister?

(With observations about the Washington Post, New York Times and Haaretz at the end.)




Economics columnist David Rosenberg writes in today’s Haaretz (summary):

A unity government between Likud and Blue and White is preferable in that it won’t be blackmailed into making budget-busting promises to multiple coalition partners. But the financial markets should also be concerned in the medium and long term about the end of the Netanyahu era, which has brought unprecedented economic growth to Israel.

This is the result both of Netanyahu’s policies but also of his mastery of the political game. He was able to glide over divisions in Israel and bring a decade of political quiet between Israel’s warring factions. His successor may not have the same skills.



Ruthie Blum writes in today’s Jerusalem Post (extracts):

As much of a disappointment as it will be to his supporters if Netanyahu is unable to head the next government, it will not be the end of the world. Or of Israel.

But there is no doubt that Bibi will go down in history as one of Israel’s and the world’s most influential and consequential leaders of all times.

Under Bibi’s watch, the tiny war-torn Jewish state has become a world power to be reckoned with in every way, and not only the obvious ones, such as military prowess, hi-tech genius and medical advancement. In the industries of cooking, fashion, movie and TV, too, Israel is a global player.

In addition, despite repeated hysterical assertions, Israel is not “isolated.” On the contrary, Netanyahu has forged working relationships with heretofore unthinkable states, and has created alliances with soon-to-be former enemy Arab countries, such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia, through his incessant warnings about the Iranian regime’s race to obtain nuclear weapons.

He also has been as welcome a guest in the White House, since US President Donald Trump assumed office, as he is in the Kremlin. That he has been able to persuade Russian President Vladimir Putin not to down Israeli jets on missions against Iranian targets in Syria is mind-boggling.

On the macro level, Israel’s economy is booming to such an extent that the ever-strengthening shekel has presented a problem to local manufacturers. And in spite of its over-the-top prices, the Holy Land is a prized tourist destination.



Wall Street Journal correspondent Felicia Schwartz writes today (summary):

If he becomes Israel’s next leader, retired Gen. Benny Gantz, 60, would likely follow the same path as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Gantz served as the head of Israel’s military from 2011 to 2015, while Netanyahu was the prime minister. President Trump, who has described Gantz as a “good person” and said Wednesday that the U.S. relationship is with Israel as a country, not any one leader.

Gantz has said he thought the Obama administration could have reached a much better nuclear deal with Iran in 2015. Gantz has wholeheartedly supported Netanyahu’s campaign against Iran and against Obama’s Iran deal, as Israel has launched strikes against Tehran’s positions and those of its Shia allies in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. “I am standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Prime Minister Netanyahu in the fight against Iran’s aggression,” Gantz told the Munich Security Conference earlier this year.

Gantz has said he would put any Israeli withdrawal from (parts of) the West Bank up for a public vote and would look to take unilateral steps if a peace deal can’t be reached. “If it turns out that there is no way to reach peace at this time, we will shape a new reality,” he said. After Netanyahu pledged to apply Israeli sovereignty to the Jordan Valley, Gantz called the area “a part of Israel forever.” Many Israelis, including Gantz, consider that area on the Jordan border essential to Israel’s security.



Ruby Mellen writes in The Washington Post (summary):

With a parliamentary election producing a deadlock, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called for a unity government with his opponent, Benny Gantz, leader of the Blue and White alliance. Born in Israel to Holocaust survivors, Gantz entered the armed forces in 1977 at age 18 and steadily climbed the ranks in a military career that spanned 38 years.

In 1989, he oversaw an operation that airlifted 14,500 Ethiopian Jews to Israel. A decade later, he served as the commander of Israeli forces in southern Lebanon and then oversaw Israel’s withdrawal from the region. While chief of staff, the IDF fought two wars in Gaza in 2012 and 2014. In January he ran a campaign ad taking credit for the 1,364 terrorists the IDF says it killed in the 2014 war.


For Tuesday’s dispatch on the Israeli election please see:
Second Israeli election in five months: “Bibi fatigue” against a lackluster Gantz


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All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.