After three days of headlines about opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu mulling an offer of a four-year premiership to Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, the defense minister could have nicked the reports in the bud when interviewed during Channel 13’s prime-time newscast on Saturday night. But that is far from what he did.
The reports said Netanyahu would propose a constructive vote of no-confidence in the government with Gantz as the candidate for prime minister for the rest of the current Knesset term, which is set to end in November 2025.
Netanyahu himself would suffice with being alternate prime minister, a more symbolic title, or foreign minister if the law preventing those under indictment from serving as a minister would be changed.
Gantz could have told interviewer Ayala Hasson that he has no interest in bringing the Likud back to government, that Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is his leader and that the current coalition would complete its term, period. He could have ruled out any future cooperation with Netanyahu.
But he didn’t.
“I still see myself on the path to be prime minister,” Gantz said. “But I work for the current government. It is important that as long as it serves the interests of the citizens, we have an interest in remaining in it.”
That statement leaves a lot to analyze.
First of all, by saying he retains his aspiration to be prime minister, Gantz is insisting on remaining a player for the premiership in future elections and is refusing to abdicate the leadership of his political camp to Foreign Minister Yair Lapid or anyone else.
He referred to “the current government” in a way that made it sound temporary.
And last but not least, he conditioned his party’s support for the government on an amorphous condition about “serving the citizens’ interests,” as he will define them in the future.
When politicians with a solid right-wing or left-wing agenda, a haredi (ultra-Orthodox) or anti-haredi leader, or an Arab MK makes such a statement, it is easier to understand what that means. With Gantz, who knows?
The answer is no one knows, including Gantz himself, who cannot predict how he will feel in the future.
Meanwhile, the reports and his response to them give Gantz a valuable commodity in politics: Leverage.
Gantz can try to use that leverage to obtain whatever he wants, from massive pensions for IDF officers, to drafting yeshiva students, to his confidante Omer Yankelevich becoming the first-ever chairwoman of the Jewish Agency.
Without leverage, Gantz would be very limited in what he could do. Bennett, Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman and, worst of all, Lapid would be able to trample him.
That is Gantz’s game. The months ahead will determine whether he emerges victorious.