Benny Gantz is taking Israel back to the future

Gantz has become the face of the Israeli center today: racist, militarist, and committed to the perpetual subjugation of Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz at a memorial ceremony at the Knesset marking 24 years since the assassination of former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin

Joshua Leifer writes in +972, “Benny Gantz’s campaign to unseat Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu centers on a single word: mamlachtiyut. Coined by Israel’s founding Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, it is the Hebrew term for civic virtue, for putting the good of the state above sectarian divisions and personal interests — above everything. It is the central pillar of Gantz’s Blue and White party, which otherwise offers only a vague platform. Gantz’s argument is that Netanyahu, facing indictments in three separate corruption cases, no longer possesses this virtue, and that Israel needs a leader who does.”

“Blue and White is betting that Israelis have grown tired of Netanyahu’s style of rule, but not the substance of his politics. The distinctions Gantz seeks to draw are primarily affective and aesthetic. Where Netanyahu is brash, Gantz is soft-spoken; where Netanyahu is frenetic, Gantz is collected. Netanyahu prefers the wide jackets and thick ties of 1990s autocrats, while Gantz wears the tailored suits and skinny ties of today’s technocrats. On the podium, Gantz exudes a martial dignity meant to contrast with Netanyahu’s mafioso-populism. That Netanyahu is not the only Likudnik facing criminal corruption charges helps Gantz’s argument that the ruling party lacks the virtues to lead. Likud Welfare Minister Haim Katz and MK David Bitan are also facing criminal investigations of their own.”

Benny Gantz, Yair Lapid, Moshe Yaalon and Gaby Ashkenazi of the Blue and White party, during a faction meeting

“There is an element of nostalgia to Gantz’s presentation. The tall, blue-eyed retired general has modeled himself as the successor to former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and was crowned as such last November, when he delivered the main speech during the annual ceremony in Tel Aviv commemorating Rabin’s assassination. Unlike Netanyahu, who was raised among Jerusalem’s right-wing counter-intelligentsia, and whose Likud has long been the party of the Mizrahi working-class, Gantz was born to Holocaust survivor parents on a moshav, an agricultural cooperative, associated with the religious wing of the Labor Zionist movement. His resemblance to Israel’s bygone generation of farmer-warrior leaders accounts, in part, for his party’s success in peeling off voters from the old Labor Zionist parties, Labor and Meretz, which have had to merge to avoid all-but-certain failure to meet the electoral threshold.”…

Tzipi Livni sits with the founder of the Kadima party, Ariel Sharon. January 13, 2001

“Whether for reasons of strategy or principle, or some combination of both, Blue and White has tacked hard to the right in the current round of elections. When Netanyahu pledged to annex the Jordan Valley in November, Blue and White MKs Chili Tropper and Yoaz Hendel said the party would support it. Then, as Donald Trump and Netanyahu jointly unveiled Trump’s “peace plan” in Washington in January, Gantz not only secured a meeting with Trump but also pledged to implement the plan (though not before the elections, as Netanyahu promised to do).” (more…)

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