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The Man Who Would Be King

Older readers will no doubt be familiar with the short story by Rudyard Kipling of the same name, which in turn spawned the 1975 adventure movie following the exploits of Peachy Carnehan (Michael Caine) and Danny Dravot (Sean Connery), English military officers stationed in India.

Tired of life as soldiers, the two travel to the isolated land of Kafiristan (read a province of Afganstein), where they are ultimately embraced by the people and revered as rulers. After a series of misunderstandings, the natives come to believe that Dravot is a god, but he and Carnehan can't keep up their deception forever.

I’ve given up watching the news, particularly the political/forthcoming election coverage. The speed that political parties are amalgamating, changing their names/direction/colors is breathtaking. It seems each day brings a new name to the playground and with it a change of course.

From what I understand the November 1 election is a snap election. I know the democratic pathway in the UK is different from Israel, but a snap election in the UK is three weeks. Why in Israel does it take close to four months to arrange a snap election? And then you have this to me ridiculous situation where the sitting government opens negotiations with all the current parties in the Knesset to agree on an amenable date.

It reminds me of a scene from the 1970 movie Cromwell when the military leaders of both sides in what is known as the English Civil War – Parliamentarians, and Royalists – met to discuss what time they should commence battle. One side suggests 10:00 am, while the other side counters with 9:00 am.

Back to The Man Who Would Be King.

From the little, I am seeing/reading/hearing about the forthcoming battle for Israel's soul, it would appear that Benny Gantz is prepared to do anything and everything to be King.

Assuming Mr. Gantz is not familiar with the Rudyard Kipling story, he should perhaps take time to read and understand the comeuppance our two heroes suffered. It’s food for thought.

The new slate headed by Gantz is now called Machane Mamlachti (in Hebrew) – The National Unity Party (in English) – is the result of the union of Gantz’s Blue & White party with Gideon Sa'ar’s New Hope Party.

Added to the slate at #3 is former IDF chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot, who took over from Benny Gantz when his tenure as IDF CoS ended in 2015.

Also added is the current Religious Services minister Matan Kahana, previously of Yamina. The latter has also changed its name to the Zionist Spirit following the joining with the two-MK Derech Eretz party who I guess were anxious about being out of work after November 1.

Last week (August 6, 2022,) Jerusalem Post writer, Herb Keinon posed the question regarding “The virtues and pitfalls of former IDF chiefs of staff entering politics”

Do former IDF CoS’ and other former senior officers make good politicians?

Those of us who are seniors’ can think back to the heyday of the Labor party in Israel and recall that most ex-IDF officers choose to enter the political arena. Some of course also moved to the Right. But how many of these would-be politicians made difference to Israel? While all undoubtedly contributed as ministers, for example, few made it to the very top.

We can think of Rabin, Barak, and Chaim Herzog as examples.

And now we have Benny Gantz who it would appear is despite to be more than just ministry of defense. He has made no bones about it, he wants to be Prime Minister.

The question is, is ambition and drive enough?

Does he have the mindset for the rough and tumble of the political arena?

His past actions have shown that he is not averse to backstabbing when required and that, again in the past, he was naïve to believe the storyboard presented to him. Concerning the latter, hopefully, lesson learned.

As to his about-face a couple of years ago, should Sa'ar be concerned? Should the supporters of the Machane Mamlachti be concerned? Following November 1, should the results favor the right rather than the center, will Gantz once again abandon his platform and jump ship in the name of national unity?

Some days I feel that my voting is a complete waste of time and effort. But equally, I know that I must vote given that the three religious parties mandate that their supporters vote and are told by their rabbis that it’s a sin not to vote.

It’s not going to happen I know, but I am a supporter of the separation of state and religion. In my mind the two are like oil and water, they don’t mix.

So what type of prime minister would Mr. Gantz be? Is the man who would be king, fit to be a king or merely a king-maker?

Gantz knows that a party leader with single-digit seats can, under the right circumstances and with the backing of another like-minded party leader, be PM. Naftali Bennet was fortunate that he had Yair Lapid’s backing. Given the reported tension between Lapid and Gantz, and the previous backstabbing incident, the question is whether Lapid will support Gantz a second time. Will Lapid be Gantz's wingman a second time?

A question also needs to be asked regarding Gideon Sa'ar and a number of his cronies who bucked the Likud following the failure of Sa’ar’s leadership challenge to Netanyahu. Sa'ar has made it that he will serve in a Netanyahu-led government. But let us suppose that between now and November 1 Netanyahu is ousted. Or, following inconclusive results, on November 2 Netanyahu is ousted and a new leader say, Nir Barkat is installed as the leader of the Likud and can swiftly form a government, will Sa’ar and company abanded Gantz?

This is of course pure conjecture. As we have seen in the last weeks' anything can happen in the cesspool of Israeli politics. As former UK PM Harold Wilson was apt to say, “a week is a long time in politics”.

Both William Shakespeare around 1597 in his play Henry IV and Arthur Conan Doyle, 300 years later, in his fictional detective Sherlock Holmes used the phrase “The game is afoot”.

Boy, it certainly is.

We, the gullible audience of Israeli citizens, can only stand and watch.

The man who would be king and the others that swim in the cesspool of Israeli politics should perhaps remember a quote from US President Abraham Lincoln: “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.”

Wise Words.


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