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He came in like a lion, and is, by all accounts, going out like lamb.

The fall of Benny Gantz.

Let me start by saying I don’t know Benny Gantz, I have never met him and doubt I never will. I have nothing against Benny Gantz, I neither like nor dislike, support or oppose him. I am unbiased regarding the man.

A review of his army career shows exemplary service and dedication which begs the question, why was he passed over to succeed Gadi Ashkenazi in favor of Yoav Galant?

The decision was reached by the then ministry of defense, Ehud Barak, and prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Was Gantz too leftwing for Netanyahu? No reason was, as far as I am aware, ever given for the selection of Galant over Gantz.

Did Galant’s connections to politicians and businesspeople help? By all accounts, there is no love lost between Galant and Ashkenazi and Gantz.

Readers may recall that Galant, although nominated to the post of the Chief of the General Staff, never took up the position due to what is dubbed ‘the land affair’.

Once Galant had stepped aside, his place was taken by Yair Naveh, as interim IDF chief of staff. Benny Gantz was by this time was on extended leave before his discharge from the army but was called back by Barak and Netanyahu to fill the role of IDF chief of the general staff. It’s as if Gantz was first or second reserve after Galant. There is nothing wrong with being #2, not everyone is cut out to be #1.

Following Gantz’s tenure as IDF chief of the general staff and his subsequent retirement from the military, he had by all accounts an unsuccessful stint in the commercial world. This should not be held against him, I seem to recall that Netanyahu himself also had an unproductive spell in the world of business before embarking on his political path.

Question; what made Benny Gantz two years ago think that he had the panacea for what ills Israel?

The same question can be asked of Yair Lapid when he set-up Yesh Atid some years ago, and can be asked of current Tel Aviv mayor Ron Huldai and former IDF chief of staff, Gadi Eisenkot. The two, according to media reports, are planning on forming a new centrist party. Why, what do they have to offer that is new?

And then what about current Likud MK, Yifat Shasha-Biton, the much under-fire Knesset Coronavirus chairwoman, who on July 13, this year, voted to reverse the government decision to shutter pools and gyms because of fears of contagion from the covid-19 pandemic. Channel 12 reported that the Likud coalition whip Miki Zohar told her: "You are finished in the Likud party." He added that she would be removed as chairwoman from the covid-19 committee. She was not. It is reported that Yifat Shasha-Biton plans to form a new social-economic party to fight the next election.

Many more examples can be found of individuals who believe they have the solution to what ails Israel, assuming of course that something does ail the country.

Back to Gantz.

A few days ago Gil Hoffman wrote an excellent opinion piece in the Jerusalem Post: "How Netanyahu outsmarted his former IDF chief.’’ "Why after Gantz's indecisiveness, future alternatives to Netanyahu will have an even greater challenge.’’

Truth be told, even with the backing of the other ‘three housemen’’, Gantz was totally out of his depth. A political novice playing in a league far beyond his experience, knowledge, or resources against a master tactician, a master manipulator, a master communicator.

Gantz did not just walk into the IDF chief of staff position. He joined the army and worked his way through basic training, various courses, officer school, more courses, training, all the time gaining knowledge and experience until appointed to the top job.

And yet, Gantz appeared to accept the fact that he could just waltz in and secure the premiership without first serving an apprenticeship. Why? Did he believe that he was better than others? Maybe it was pure ignorance or arrogance on his part?

I have no idea whether Gantz would have made a good premier, I suspect we will never know.

Had he lowered his profile, served his apprenticeship, and moved up in the ranks, things may well have been different, rather than the bull-in-the-china shop approach. Look at Naftali Bennet, Gideon Saar, Nir Bracket, and others who covet the premiership of Israel but also understand the need, the importance of serving their time, learning the ropes, and understanding the backstabbing, the sleepless nights, political skulduggery, and devious ploys of Knesset life.

It may well be painful for Benny Gantz to look at Naftali Bennet, who has evolved from a political rookie to a near national leader.

Avraham Avi-Hai, writing in the Jerusalem Post says about Naftali Bennet: “If he can enter the ranks of statesmen, Bennett could transform politics in Israel and recast some politicians as statesmen as well.”

(In his article, Avraham Avi-Hai expands on his idea of what makes a statesman: “There are many definitions of a statesman. Mine is two-part: a statesman or stateswoman is a person who focuses on the main problems of her or his country and who unifies his/her people to face and overcome them.”)

When the next election comes, which by all accounts will be sooner rather than later, Benny Gantz will, it appears, be relegated to a footnote of Israel’s history. Sad for someone who gave so much to Israel during his military career.

And his rise and fall should also serve as a warning to others who contemplate following in his political footsteps.

Certainly, it's better to have tried and failed, than never tried at all. Not trying, is after all, far worse than failure.

But it’s also important to know which skirmishes can be won, and when to walk away to fight another day. I guess this maxim is taught in military officer schools the world over.


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