Defense Minister Benny Gantz left a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday, after Transportation Minister Miri Regev of Netanyahu’s Likud party said in an interview he “wasn’t ready to become prime minister.”
In an interview with the Yedioth Ahronoth daily, to be published in full on Thursday, Regev said: “Let’s see what happens in the next year and a half” before Gantz is expected to take over from Netanyahu, according to the unity coalition deal between Likud and Kahol Lavan. “Let’s see if he learns from the best,” she added.
Gantz and Netanyahu had spent several hours together on Wednesday in meetings related to Gantz’s position as defense minister, but once they sat down privately, Gantz protested Regev’s remarks. He said they are out of line for government partners, demanded an apology and left the room.
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The Kahol Lavan leader is a former IDF chief of staff, and although he had a long military career, with plenty of leadership roles, this is his first government position. His lack of political experience was used as fodder by Netanyahu’s camp during the drawn—out electoral battle that gave rise to Israel’s current fragile — and largest ever — government.
Miri Regev pulled no punches in her attacks on Gantz since he announced his candidacy, discrediting his record as military chief, accusing him of fomenting a coup with the predominantly Arab Joint List, and even interrupting a Knesset speech with jeers as late as the end of March.
A statement on behalf of senior Likud members following Regev’s interview said that “the [election] campaign is over and it is time for unity. It is time we stop personal attacks on all sides. The election is behind us and the joint tasks are ahead of us, and we must join hands for the citizens of Israel.”
Meanwhile, Kahol Lavan lawmaker Eitan Ginzburg, who heads the party’s Knesset faction, said in a tweet that Regev’s remarks “are mostly a shame to herself. It’s best that she deals with her ministry’s affairs … instead of badmouthing and tarnishing a man who has dedicated his entire life to the country.”