Gantz Says Netanyahu 'Risks Igniting Civil War,' Calls on Likud Members to Speak Out

Statement follows leadership challenge from senior Likud member Gideon Sa'ar, who said Netanyahu is incapable of forming government

Kahol Lavan leader and retired General Benny Gantz, gives a statement ahead of a midnight deadline in the coastal city of Tel Aviv on November 20, 2019.
AFP

Kahol Lavan Chairman Benny Gantz called Saturday on Likud officials to cooperate with him and form a governing coalition, claiming that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu risks igniting a civil war. 

"Likud leaders, it's time to make your voice heard," said Gantz in a statement to the media. "The last days and weeks leave no room for doubt - Netanyahu risks igniting a civil war between us," he added.

"I respect you and I call for a partnership with you," Gantz added. "Even if we do not agree on everything, you, like my friends and I, share the Zionist values of partnership and unity. It's time for you put the fears and threats of the past aside, and to march Israeli society as a whole into a new era of healing," he said.  

Gantz criticized Netanyahu's conduct following the publication of the indictment against him for bribery, fraud and breach of trust. "None of the previous leaders, be it from Israel's right or left, ever dared to think of the state as theirs, or that it cannot exist without them, none of them thought to turn one man against his brother, to incite one against his brother, and to call explicitly or implicitly for one to harm his brother,” he said.

Alluding to Netanyahu's role in the right-wing campaign against former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in the run-up to his assassination, he said: "Someone who spearheaded the harsh and painful campaign against Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin of blessed memory, which ended in a national disaster, should know that dangerous words are doomed to turn into deadly bullets." He added that "a true patriot" would not "hold Israeli citizens hostage to his legal battle."

Gantz also said he wishes Netanyahu will be cleared of all charges in the trial, but added "I demand he respect his loss in the election, and the decision of the legal system whose heads he himself appointed, I call on him to respect the will of the majority of the people by resigning from his position and fighting for his innocence."

He concluded by saying "the citizens of Israel won't be held hostage by anyone, by any of their leaders."

Earlier Saturday, former minister and senior Likud member Gideon Sa'ar criticized Netanyahu's attack against Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit and the claim that the decision made by the latter to indict the former of corruption is "an attempted coup."

"In the two election campaigns we had, he couldn't form a government," Sa'ar said of Netanyahu. "He had our full support even when he made a mistake like dissolving the Knesset," after the April election, the former Likud minister said."

The Likud released a statement in response to Sa'ar's comments reiterating the party's support the prime minister, "It is unfortunate to see that while Prime Minister Netanyahu maintains Israel's security on all fronts and works to preserve Likud's rule, Gideon Sa'ar as usual shows zero loyalty and maximum subversion," the statement said.

The Minister of Communications David Amsalem said on Saturday that the accompanying attorney for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's attorney, Liat Ben Ari, "should sit in prison." He also claimed that Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit did not make the decision to publish the indictment against Netanyahu himself for bribery, fraud and breach of trust, but state attorney Shai Nitzan led the move.

When I heard Mendelbit, I was very sad," Amsalem said in on Channel 12 news. "He put on the self-righteous mask, as if he was some great righteous man, and in fact he read what Shai Nitzan dictated to him. Mandelblit does not have the mental power." He also said "Mandelblit reminds me of Officer Azoulay. We appointed him, so we made a mistake. Liat Ben Ari should sit in prison for me."

Amsalem also argued that the investigators "should be investigated" and called the decision to file the indictment "a coup." He also said, "The prime minister, in my opinion, is not a corrupt person. He is a straight man."