Benny Gantz, the former Israeli general turned party leader, agreed late last week to join his rival Benjamin Netanyahu in an âemergency governmentâ to deal with the coronavirus epidemic.
Two weeks ago he had won a wafer-thin majority vote in the parliament that gave him first shot at trying to put together a coalition government.
Instead he has conceded to Netanyahu, who will remain prime minister for the next 18 months. Gantz is supposed to take over in late 2021, though Netanyahu has a formidable reputation for double-dealing.
Over the past year Gantz fought three hotly contested, though indecisive, general elections in which he vowed to bring down Netanyahu, who has ruled continuously for 11 years.
He had promised supporters he would never sit in a government alongside Netanyahu, who is due to stand trial on multiple corruption charges.
Predictably, the U-turn tore apart Gantzâs Blue and White party. Denouncing the decision, two of the allianceâs three constituent factions said they would head into the opposition.
There has been increasing governmental paralysis over the past year with neither Gantz nor Netanyahu able to cobble together a majority coalition with other parties.
The reason was the Joint List party, representing Israelâs Palestinian citizens, a fifth of the countryâs population, which effectively held the balance of votes. None of the main Jewish parties was prepared to be seen relying on its 15 seats.
Even with Gantzâs depleted party, Netanyahuâs âemergency governmentâ should now be able to muster more than 70 seats in the 120-member parliament, giving him a safe majority.
Renowned for his ability to pull off political miracles, Netanyahu appears to have gradually worn down Gantzâs resistance over the past 12 months. The coronavirus epidemic proved the final straw.
Netanyahu has exploited justifiable fears about the virus to cement his status as Father of the Nation. In regular addresses, he has presented himself as Israelâs Winston Churchill, the British wartime leader who helped vanquish the Nazis.
He has now served longer as prime minister than the countryâs founding father, David Ben Gurion.
Gantz, it seems, assessed that there was no practical way to push for a fourth election during the current lockdowns. And in any case Netanyahu,