“There are two and a half hours of recordings waiting for him in the fourth election,” a senior Likud official said with satisfaction a moment before Kahol Lavan Chairman Benny Gantz crossed the lines and joined the criminal defendant in forming an emergency government.
The Likud official was referring to tapes in which Yisrael Bachar, Gantz’s senior adviser, could be heard giving a rabbi his real opinion of his client and leader: “He’s dangerous to Israel.”
The Likud official, who had heard the tapes, hinted back then that they included several other explosive statements that could damage Gantz, reveal intimate details about him, weaken him and undermine him with his own electorate.
But when that official was recently asked whether those tapes and other material acquired by Netanyahu’s Likud party would be used in the future to publicly destroy Gantz, he replied, “It’s not really necessary. Gantz is already dead.”
Likud no longer pays any heed to the man who is bleeding Knesset seats at such a dizzying rate that he seems likely to become a bench player at best in the next election, which will apparently be held sometime next year. For years, Likud has been memorizing the first lesson in Netanyahu’s school, a lesson Gantz missed: Never disconnect from your base; without it, you have lost your right to exist. But Gantz, in a single act whose motives still aren’t completely clear, disconnected from his voters like a satellite disconnecting from its ground station.
It’s tempting to think that Gantz will earn nothing more than a footnote in the history books, that he’ll disappear into a black hole. But after a little more thought, it seems likely that years from now, when historians have to choose the person responsible for corrupting government institutions more than anyone else, their choice will be Gantz.
It’s true that the defense minister and alternate prime minister has no encrypted accounts in tax-shelter islands to which tycoons and interested parties funneled millions. Nor did he receive cash-filled envelopes from an American tycoon that were concealed in a safe maintained by his attorney and close friend. He didn’t demand that millionaires buy expensive jewelry for his wife and cigars and suits for himself. He didn’t secretly plot with publishers to kill the free press.
But Gantz and the gang surrounding him, from Yoaz Hendel to Miki Haimovich, from Gabi Ashkenazi to Zvi Hauser and Amir Peretz, are the ones who enabled government corruption to stand tall and look down on all of us dismissively from on high.
From a moral standpoint, sometimes collaborators are worse than the actual perpetrators.
Gantz is the person who gave a prime minister indicted for bribery the legitimacy to remain in office. Gantz is the one who silenced his cowed and obedient ministers and Knesset members when Netanyahu assailed the heads of the law enforcement system during a horror show staged at the start of his trial.
And this week, Gantz is the man who, under cover of the unholy alliance he forged with Netanyahu, enabled the prime minister to make all his materialistic fantasies come true and benefit from scandalous tax refunds, and apparently also from massive public funding for his private residence in Caesarea. These are bitter pills we have to swallow, said Tourism Minister Asaf Zamir of Kahol Lavan’s consent to all this largesse.
The question of why Gantz agreed to swallow such a large and bitter pill is still gnawing at me. Did a complete lack of understanding lead him into this act of self-destruction? Or did he prefer to gamble with all of our fates because he knew that the other side had an arsenal that could destroy him?
It’s unlikely that the answers to these intriguing questions will emerge anytime soon. Perhaps only the scholars who will someday devote a chapter of our black history to Gantz will manage to unravel the secret.