Gantz, Lapid Vow to 'Rehabilitate' Relationship With Democratic Party, American Jews if Elected

Kahol Lavan leader says possible land swaps and population transfers between Israel and future Palestinian state is the aspect of Trump's peace plan that 'bothers' him

Kahol Lavan leader Benny Gantz at an event organized to cater to new immigrants by the Tel Aviv International Salon, February 17, 2020.
Allison Kaplan Sommer

Kahol Lavan leader Benny Gantz said Monday he would work to improve relations between Israel and the Democratic Party if he is elected prime minister, while restoring bipartisan support for the Jewish state that was “neglected” during Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s years in office. 

Gantz spoke in English to an audience of 1,000 primarily English-speaking immigrants, alongside his party’s co-leader Yair Lapid, at an event organized by the Tel Aviv International Salon ahead of Israel’s March 2 election.  

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“It’s very important that we return to the bipartisan relationship between Israel and the United States,” Gantz said. “This is something that Netanyahu, unfortunately, neglected,” he added.

While he said Netanyahu clearly favored the Republican Party, Kahol Lavan “doesn’t care if the American president is a Republican or a Democrat. If he is a good president for the United States, by definition he will be a good president for the State of Israel as well.”

Lapid added: “We have rehabilitation to do with the Democratic Party, but we also need rehabilitation with American Jewry.”

Winning enthusiastic applause from the audience, Lapid promised that if Kahol Lavan is able to form a governing coalition, the party will implement the frozen Western Wall agreement that would have established a pluralistic prayer space for the Reform and Conservative movements at the Jewish holy site.

Lapid said that “all streams of Judaism should have access to the Kotel,” adding that “equality for all forms of Jewish worship is an essential part of the government we want to form.”  

Gantz reiterated his support for U.S. President Donald Trump’s “deal of the century,” calling it “well organized” and “something we can work with.” 

“Trump’s plan,” he said, “is a strong, high vision, historic opportunity to restart negotiations” with the Palestinians “from a more realistic perspective.”

However, the Kahol Lavan leader said that possible land swaps and population transfers between Israel and a future Palestinian state is the aspect of Trump's peace plan that mostly “bothers” him.

“I don't think we should transfer Israeli citizens to any other country whether they are Jewish or Arab,” Gantz said.  

When he met with Trump in Washington ahead of the unveiling of the plan in January, Gantz said the U.S. president “understood that he had a future partner, and I understood that I had a future partner.”

Gantz said he is absolutely certain that if he is elected prime minister, the relationship between Israel and the United States won’t change. “And if there is a change,” he added, “it would be for the better between both American society and the Jewish American society.”

When asked by the event’s moderator to outline the differences between his approach to the Trump deal and Netanyahu’s, Gantz responded: “We both talk about peace, but we in [Kahol Lavan] mean it. We both talk about promoting the political processes with our neighbors, but we mean it.”