Defense Minister and Kahol Lavan Chairman Benny Gantz fired back on Monday at 130 former senior defense officials who signed a full-page ad that ran in Israeli newspapers on Monday, calling on him to drop out of Israel's upcoming election on March 23, amid concerns that his party will not pass the electoral threshold and effectively result in wasted votes for the center-left bloc.
"Instead of helping me or covering the target, they are shooting me in the back," Gantz asserted, using military battle language in an interview at a conference sponsored by the Yedioth Ahronoth daily and its online outlet Ynet.
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Gantz, a former military chief, said that he would “continue to charge ahead towards the target” and called the signatories to the ad “victims of people with political interests.” Those signatories include Former Prime Minister and Former Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Maj. Gen. (res.) Danny Yatom and Former National Security Adviser Uzi Arad.
Referring to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Kahol Lavan's decision to form a coalition with Likud, Gantz emphasized that he has been “protecting this government from the inside” and seeing to it that Israel doesn't become “a de facto dictatorship of one man.”
“That’s enough Benny! You’ve tried everything. Now it is Israel above everything,” read the full-page ad in Monday’s newspapers read, which called on Gantz “to take one last leadership decision and quit this dangerous race.”
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“Don’t lend a hand to a waste of votes for the camp [supporting] change,” the ad urged, warning that Gantz’s Kahol Lavan party will not pass the minimum threshold of 3.25 percent of the vote in the upcoming election. According to poll results from the past week, Kahol Lavan has been wavering around the 3.25 percent mark.
On Sunday, Haaretz reported that the Yesh Atid party headed by Yair Lapid would soon attempt to step up the pressure on Kahol Lavan and on Yaron Zelekha's New Economic Party to drop out of the race, to strengthen the turnout for the other center-left parties and help them attract undecided voters. Nonetheless, Kahol Lavan plans to use the next week to solidify its position above the electoral threshold.
Over the past several days, Gantz has been pursuing a three-pronged campaign. Last week, he called on longtime Labor voters to prefer his party, whose slate he said is akin to the Labor's Mapai predecessor. He called the current Knesset slate elected in the Labor's internal primaries left-wing and cited the names of well-known Labor members who have defected to Kahol Lavan.
Gantz is also waging a campaign designed to engender a sense among voters that he is fair and honest, strongly reminiscent of the 2013 campaign of Kadima party leader Shaul Mofaz. The third prong highlights his party's conduct in the coalition as he faces off with Prime Minister Netanyahu.