Many of the Christian Zionists in the United States think that Benjamin Netanyahu (Bibi) is the greatest Prime Minister conceivable. However, Messianic Jews who live here have a much more nuanced view of Bibi. I have lived here now for 16 years and follow politics closely. It does have a great impact on our lives. At this present moment, there is still no unity agreement between Benny Gantz and his party and Benjamin Netanyahu and his party. The political stalemate and the haggling are going on even now. Bibi and some of his senior people are in quarantine, but they communicate as we all do now by internet connections. I compare Bibi and Gantz in three categories: one where Bibi is better, one where Gantz is better and one where I don’t see much difference.
Where Bibi is Better
- Bibi is strong on international diplomacy. He has a strong charismatic personality. This has been a great gain. The weakness is that his diplomatic people, in embassies especially, are very underfunded and cannot do their work well.
- Bibi is stronger in promoting Israel’s rights in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank). Though for years he would not do what he thinks he can now do with Trump being president, he wants to annex the Jewish towns to Israel and to annex the Jordan valley on the Israel side of the river. Trump is indicating that he will support this if the Palestinians do not come to the negotiating table. Others to the right of Bibi have been pushing this for years, but Bibi has not been willing to buck the United States. Gantz has said he wants to do this only with International support, which means he will not do it. I believe taking these Jewish towns off the table for negotiation is now important since there will otherwise be no peace agreement. Dismantling these towns would lead to civil war. There are 400,000. It will never happen. Gantz and Bibi are making this an issue in the negotiations.
- Bibi understands money and economic growth. He is strong in this. Maybe Gantz would be strong but he is unproven.
Gantz is stronger than Bibi on most social justice issues. I am not defining social justice in a socialistic way (see my book Social Justice). Here is a list.
- Adequate spending for sufficient hospital capacity.
- Not vilifying Israel’s Arab citizens, but equally spending for them per capita on roads, schools, hospitals and police protection. It almost seems as if Bibi wants to alienate them, but it is really a way to use fear to keep his base motivated.
- Requiring the Ultra-Orthodox to work and their schools to educate for the work place. Bibi has been hopelessly weak on this. He needs their parties in the coalition.
- Gantz is stronger on providing for Russian Jews who are not considered Jewish by the Orthodox. This means lessening the power of the state Rabbinate, allowing them to marry in Israel or empowering the more moderate Orthodox conversion standards.
- This will be a real surprise, but I think Gantz is stronger on military defense. Bibi, despite his reputation, has been weak. He has allowed Hezbollah to rearm after the last Lebanon War (as has the U. N.) He could have quickly re-invaded and required enforcing the U. N. arms embargo against them. Now we have 150,000 rockets against us. He has also been weak in Gaza. If he used targeted assignations of terrorist leaders, Hamas in Gaza might stop their attacks. But he has allowed Hamas to terrorize the south. Gantz has spoken strongly about this.
A Probable Tie
- The cost of living and housing. Though Bibi for years was weak on this, his Finance Minister, Moshe Kachlon has really succeeded in moderating the cost of living increases. I think this would be a part of Gantz’s policy as well.
- Building infrastructure: roads, bridges and public transportation. All want to do this if they can find the funds.
- Having a strong military force.
- Opposing the Iran regime and motivating sanctions on the regime.
- Fighting the Corona Virus. I do not see any differences.
- Justice for Messianic Jews. Both are embracing Shas that has said it will guarantee the rotation. This might be also enshrined in passing a law. So our hope of fairness in immigration with Shas in power does not look good.
So far, to build the unity government Netanyahu has committed to leave the Prime Minister’s office in 18 months and have Gantz serve as Prime Minister. Gantz will allow an indicted Prime Minister to serve (contrary to his last position) and will not pass legislation to bar such. However, Gantz has now been elected the Speaker of the Knesset. This is his ace if Bibi does not really share power. He can still pass legislation on not allowing an indicted Prime Minister to serve, and then Bibi is gone. But Bibi’s is in danger of rebellion on his right because the coational partners and his own party, Likud, do not want to see so many ministries controlled by Gantz. To give all his right party partners their due and to fulfill the requirements of Gantz and his party, Bibi plans to create many more ministerial positions. This would yield a cabinet of 36 people (17 or 18 is the usual figure). At times like this, we so wish there was a constitution in Israel.