Yesh Atid-Telem leader Yair Lapid on Thursday proposed a six-month “political freeze” to prevent fourth elections as Israel battles the coronavirus pandemic, as his ally Moshe Ya’alon said their former party chief Benny Gantz was unfit to serve as prime minister over his willingness to sit in a government headed by Benjamin Netanyahu.
Gantz is conducting negotiations for forming a unity government with Netanyahu’s Likud, a move that caused the centrist Blue and White party to split from former allies Lapid and Ya’alon.
Israel has been led by a caretaker government since December 2018, when the 20th Knesset dissolved. Since then, three consecutive elections have so-far failed to yield a new government, marking Israel’s worst political crisis since its foundation.
“In light of the events of the past 24 hours, the embarrassing past month, the past year. I want to put forward a proposal to this house: Enough of the politics,” Lapid told the Knesset plenum. “People don’t have enough food to put on the table. Businesses are collapsing. People are dying in hospitals. We need to solve the crisis of the lack of tests. We need to start to tackle the economic crisis because no one has really started to tackle it.
“In these circumstances, the creation of a corrupt and bloated government is a national disaster. The idea that we’ll get dragged to fourth elections is disturbing. It’s completely detached from reality,” he added.
“So I’m going back to a proposal I suggested before – a simple, clean proposal. To freeze everything for six months,” Lapid suggested. “In six months we’ll come back to the same situation. In those six months, instead of dealing with politics we will work to save the economy and the healthcare system and people’s lives. In those six months, the transitional government will continue. I think it’s a bad government but it won’t be able to do whatever it wants because we’ll control the Knesset. The Knesset will have teeth and it will have a majority.”
He added: “A freeze isn’t ideal. It’s not what we wanted. But it’s better than crawling into a corrupt government. It’s definitely better than fourth elections.”
Also on Thursday, Telem leader Ya’alon attacked Gantz in an interview with Channel 12: “He naively thought he was making a sacrifice to help the country but he is finding himself facing cynical conmanship.”
“Netanyahu wants to guarantee he doesn’t end up in court,” Ya’alon said of the premier who is indicted in three corruption cases. “If instead of dealing with the coronavirus, [Gantz] hands Netanyahu immunity; there is no way to talk about him leading [the country].”
“Unfortunately, Gantz cannot be prime minister. What’s happening here is a collapse,” Ya’alon, who like Gantz is a former IDF chief of staff, said of Gantz’s decision to seek a coalition with Netanyahu.
Ya’alon said he and Gantz were still talking, and that he hoped Gantz was “slowly realizing where he has landed.”
He also lamented that the anti-Netanyahu bloc chose not to form a minority government propped up by outside support from the Arab-majority Joint List party. The bloc had also planned to pass legislation barring an indicted politician from serving.
That was thwarted by two of Ya’alon’s former Telem members Yoaz Hendel and Zvi Hauser, who opposed that plan and have now formed a new faction — Derech Eretz — that has joined Gantz in unity efforts.
“I see a problem with Hauser’s and Hendel’s conduct,” Ya’alon said. “They attacked me for relying on the Arabs, but we had only needed them for one vote to get the defendant out of [the Prime Minister’s Residence on] Balfour [Street].”
Coincidentally or not, Hendel published a Facebook post hours after the interview, detailing Derech Eretz’s views and writing: “There will be no partnerships with political elements that don’t recognize Israel as a Jewish and democratic nation-state.”