To the new government: Help heal our nation – The Jerusalem Post

Posted By on May 15, 2020

When Benny Gantz took up his post as IDF chief of staff in 2011, the IDF was still roiling over the Harpaz Affair the forging of a document that had detailed a strategy on how to secure the appointment of then-major-general Yoav Gallant as chief of staff.The Harpaz Affair was much more than just a forged document. At its core was a rotten relationship between Gabi Ashkenazi, Gantzs predecessor as chief of staff, and then-defense minister Ehud Barak. The feud saw both men working to undermine the others decisions, nasty briefings against one another to the media and, ultimately, Baraks decision not to extend Ashkenazis term.Against this background, the new chief of staff convened his generals for the first time in the General Staff conference room at the Kirya military headquarters. There is the smell of a carcass in the room, Gantz told the officers. I find myself thinking about our friends who fell in battle, and whether we are still worthy of their sacrifice.Gantz wasnt exaggerating. The atmosphere within the top echelons of the IDF at the time was bitter and acrimonious. Generals didnt know whom they could trust: behind closed doors, the defense minister was speaking against the former chief of staff, and vice versa. Ashkenazi and Barak could barely look at one another in public.Despite the 10 years that have passed, the Harpaz Affair was brought back last week by Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud Party, who are trying to use it to delegitimize Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit ahead of the prime ministers bribery trial scheduled to begin a week from Sunday.Moreover, Gantz is now reliving a similar situation to the one he encountered in 2011. What he smelled when becoming chief of staff will be similar to what he will encounter nine years later when he enters the cabinet room in the Prime Ministers Office next week, now as defense minister.After 17 months of political bickering and negating one another, Netanyahu and Gantz may be joining hands to establish a government, but that doesnt mean the smell of the carcass is no longer in the room. There is still the issue of trust between the two men, which remains at a minimum. It might not be where it was before the March 2 election, when Gantz told members of his party that he did not believe a single word Bibi said, but there is still a great deal of suspicion between the two Benjamins. Gantz desperately wants to believe that Netanyahu will abide by the deal and step down for the scheduled rotation at the end of 2021; and Netanyahu is still fearful that once his criminal trial begins, Gantz might end up jumping ship.But beyond the politicians, and much more important, is the need for Israel to heal. Not just the politicians but the entire nation. The last few weeks battling the coronavirus might have made some of us forget, but this country was split ahead of the last election two and a half months ago. It was split politically more than half the country voted against Netanyahu and it was split socially: the Right attacked the Arabs; the Left the haredim (ultra-Orthodox), and on and on. The stench of that carcass is still out there. It has not gone away. We might have come together for a few weeks amid the COVID-19 lockdown, but we are far from being where we should be as a nation.In their coalition agreement, Gantz and Netanyahu agreed to set up a Reconciliation Cabinet. What this means exactly remains to be seen. But Gantz should make sure that the fate of this special cabinet is not like almost every other committee established in this country a panel set up to send an issue to die a slow death. That is what happened with the Nissim Commission, set up two years ago to come up with a resolution to the conversion crisis, and that is what happened to the committee set up seven months ago to fight crime in the Arab sector, which is also now a fading memory.If done right, the novel coronavirus does not need to be the only justification for Netanyahu and Gantz to form the government that will be sworn in on Sunday. It can also be a catalyst for reconciliation across society, a reconciliation that is needed and could become the incoming governments greatest achievement.This wont be easy. Based on the attacks against Mandelblit and the resurfacing of the Harpaz Affair, politicians like Amir Ohana the outgoing justice minister and incoming public security minister are not going to stop. He is on a mission to delegitimize Mandelblit ahead of his boss Netanyahus trial. The reason is because with COVID-19 mostly behind Israel (for now), there is almost nothing that can be done to stop Netanyahu from having to appear in court. But what he and his cronies can do is turn the tables on the prosecution and make it seem that not only is their case illegitimate, but so are the prosecutors themselves.They are trying to divert the publics attention away from the trial, so that people are more focused on the prosecutors themselves and 10-year-old allegations that were already dismissed and found to be baseless. The fact that Ayala Hasson, a veteran journalist on Channel 13, revealed the transcript from an unlawfully obtained recording banned from publication by the courts shows to what length this machine is willing to go to undermine the rule of law in Israel.Gantz will have many challenges ahead of him, but protecting the countrys democracy will be the most important one. He might have helped Netanyahu stay in power, but he doesnt have to help Netanyahu and his Likud Party undo Israels democratic character. Unfortunately, if not stopped, that is what might happen.

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To the new government: Help heal our nation - The Jerusalem Post

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