In a speech to party members broadcast on national TV, National Unity party head Benny Gantz dismisses Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s call for talks over the judicial overhaul as spin, and calls for new elections.
Gantz says he has examined a proposal for compromise via President Isaac Herzog, and that he was assured it was agreed with the prime minister, but he does not believe that Netanyahu can deliver on such a deal. He notes that the Likud, Justice Minister Yariv Levin and others in the coalition have publicly rejected it.
“What is clear is that Israel is ruled by an extreme minority government,” Gantz says.
Gantz leaves a door open for a negotiated deal, but says Netanyahu first has to show he is capable of delivering over the opposition of Levin and far-right members of the coalition.
He says he told the president yesterday “that I have difficulty seeing the coalition supporting the outline, but it is our duty to try — with the necessary responsibility and caution.”
Gantz says he and his party colleagues therefore closely analyzed the proposal and decided that “if we reached an agreement [with Netanyahu], and we did not reach an agreement, first the “reasonableness [law, limiting judicial oversight] would be corrected,” and then a law would be passed providing for all further judicial overhaul legislation to be frozen.
But “reality has proven that there is no one to talk to at this time,” Gantz says, calling Netanyahu’s partners “barn-burners who have not laid down their torches.”
“Only yesterday, Netanyahu and the Likud denied and rejected their own proposal, and today Netanyahu disseminates a new spin and calls for dialogue,” he lamented.
Gantz calls for Netanyahu to dissolve the government and for fresh elections. “Netanyahu needs to disperse the government and disperse the Knesset, and the State of Israel needs to go to elections that will allow the healing of Israeli society.”
Gantz says “there is no effective prime minister in Israel,” and that Netanyahu “first does what is good for him and only after that what is good for the state.”
He says the country is facing the worst security situation since the 1973 Yom Kippur War, with the IDF “facing disintegration” and losing preparedness.
Israel, he says, “is facing a threat to our democracy, to our system of governance.” This threat is posed by “a government led by extremists, who don’t want to fix and reform but want unrestrained control over the judicial system, and not only over that — also over the media, the education institutions, economic institutions and the entire public system.”
The rift is harming the “Israeli resilience that was always the source of Israel’s power.”
He vows to put the good of the state first and to protect Israeli democracy, even as “Netanyahu and his partners have decided to plunge Israel into the deepest crisis.”
He says he felt a national obligation to examine the framework presented to him by the president, that “it’s really not the framework of our dreams,” but that “we were prepared to discuss it as a basis to stopping the constitutional coup and regime change in Israel, with the assumption that when we are in power — and we will be in power — we will lead a wider process to entrench the rule of law and anchor the rules of governance and democracy via broad and fair agreement.”
Gantz says of the prime minister: “I’ll tell you straight, I don’t know if Netanyahu is a partner of the extremists, because of his personal interests, or their captive, out of weakness. But what’s clear, to our sorrow, is that a minority, extremist government is in control” — a coalition that does not represent the national majority, and “not even the majority of the public that elected it.”
This “extremist minority… has decided to take apart Israel’s democratic values. This minority is dragging us into the abyss.”
He urges coalition moderates “to make their voices heard.”
If, in the future, the moderates in the coalition have the upper hand, “and we can prevent the destruction of democracy, we’ll be there,” he says. “If there is a proven, real possibility in the future… to reach an agreement that will protect democracy … our hands will be outstretched.”