Statement of the Israeli Communist Forum (6/4/2020)
The Communist Forum condemns the decision of the Blue and White Party leader, Benny Gantz, to enter a Unity Government which, it seems, would be headed for the first year and a half by the current Prime Minister Netanyahu with Ganz as his deputy, after which the two are supposed to exchange roles.
This decision is a blatant violation of Gantz’s pledges in three consecutive election campaigns, held over the past year. It caused a severe disappointment to an enormous number of voters. To them, the movement headed by Gantz – with all its weaknesses and its being essentially a center-right party – represented, for the first time in many years, a real possibility of having a different Prime Minister and of changing at least some of Netanyahu‘s policies.
Coping with the Coronavirus is indeed extremely difficult, both in Israel and worldwide. People pay with their lives, many join the ranks of the infected, and it is unclear when will the deterioration end. This pandemic also exacts a heavy economic price, with most of the economy being paralyzed and an enormous number of people losing their jobs and livelihoods.
However, the Coronavirus pandemic should not be an excuse for abandoning principles and, among other things, for violating the unequivocal election pledge: "We will not take part in a government whose head is facing three serious indictments in a court of law!". The assertion that facing such indictments is no impediment for continuing to serve as Prime Minister of Israel is a pernicious new precedent, created by Netanyahu – an idea which Gantz, up to his sudden volt-face, was pledged to oppose.
It is no solution to jump on the bandwagon of those who are primarily responsible (among other things) for a years-long severe neglect of the health system. In Israel, the number per capita of doctors and nurses and of hospital beds is among the smallest among the OECD countries. The same is true of other health-related data.
Instead of investing in health, education and welfare, the government systematically cut and privatized medical and social welfare services. At the same time, billions of dollars have been invested in the purchase of ever more submarines, aircraft and other arms of all kinds, and to justify this a systematic campaign was launched of inflated “security threats”. Moreover, tycoons close to the government were granted ever more lucrative benefits and when getting in financial difficulty were “bailed out” at the expense of the general public. The social and economic price of this distorted order of priorities is now being paid in the most harsh way.
With all the difficulties inherent in the present economic and political situation, there is no reason for despair. It is encouraging to note the fact that about half of the Knesset Members in the bloc hitherto headed by Benny Gantz did not agree with his decision, but rather broke away and formed a separate faction in the Knesset, pledged to act in opposition to the new Netnayahu-Gantz cabinet.
Most encouraging is the impressive gain of the Joint List, which in the March 2 elections garnered an unprecedented 15 Knesset seats. This success is what prevented Benjamin Netanyahu from forming a narrow right-wing government immediately after the elections. The Arab population significantly increased its turnout at the polls, and about 90%of them voted for the Joint List. In addition, the Joint List – which mainly draws its support from Israel’s Arab citizens – increased its strength among the Jewish public, where it gained thousands of new votes and doubled its strength in several localities. The Joint List has shown itself to be a united, responsible and principled force which will be at the forefront of opposition to the government now being formed and to its policies in all areas.
Moreover, in the intensive political struggles waged in the weeks following the elections, and the great efforts made to unseat Netanyahu, the Joint List, to a large extent, was accepted as a legitimate player in the Israeli political arena, in a way never before accorded to Israel’s Arab citizens and their political representatives – in spite of an ugly racist campaign waged by Netanyahu and his extreme-right supporters. Though this effort was aborted by Gantz’s shameful defection, a precedent was created with major implications for the future.
Currently the joint list is most active in dealing with the Coronavirus pandemic, both on the national level and in many localities.
In the present situation of an ongoing pandemic crisis, we extend our condolences to those who lost their dear ones and wish a speedy recovery to all patients.
We express special appreciation to the doctors and nurses, to all health care workers, Jews and Arabs, who stand together at the first line of defense against the pandemic – unflinchingly incurring enormous daily sacrifice and risk.
We express our appreciation to all the many volunteers who help the victims of the pandemic, both medically and on the socio-economic level.
We demand that all the necessary budgets be allocated, needed to help the health care system in dealing with the Coronavirus, and afterwards to significantly improve the public health system in this country.
We demand an immediate and significant assistance to the many victims of the economic paralysis resulting from the pandemic, first and foremost to the many unemployed, as well as to pensioners, the disabled and all disadvantaged sectors of society. We caution against any attempt to exploit the crisis to infringe on workers' rights, including threats to cut pensions, lower wages, and make permanent many of the temporary dismissals (“unpaid leave”).
We call for a significant expansion of the government assistance program to small and medium-sized businesses. Direct government support should be significantly increased – rather than sending people of to the banks, to take new loans which under present conditions they will have no chance of paying back.
We call for increased cooperation, in the fight against the pandemic, with the Palestinian Authority and neighboring countries. The confrontation with the pandemic shows once again that instead of a policy of occupation and military offensives, cooperation is in everyone's best interests. In the longer range, establishing a just peace without conquest and occupation will facilitate all forms of co-operation – economic, medical and other – in the interest of all peoples of the region.