Gantz Vows 'Never to Withdraw From the Golan Heights'

Kahol Lavan party chairman also says he will form a unity government with Likud and 'anyone who is Zionist and sane'

Benny Gantz speaks to members of the media during a tour of the Golan Heights, alongside Moshe Ya'alon and Yair Lapid, March 4, 2019.
Gil Eliahu

Kahol Lavan chairman Benny Gantz vowed on Monday "never to withdraw" from the Golan Heights, annexed by Israel following the 1967 Six-Day War, adding he will work to promote American, European Union and United Nations recognition of Israel's sovereignty over the disputed territory.

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During a tour along Israel's northern border, ex-military chief Gantz said his party, co-led by former Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, former Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi and former Finance Minister Yair Lapid, "will know how to handle threats" to Israel's security "on all fronts."

>> Read more: Did Gantz attend a memorial for Hamas terrorists? Fact checking Netanyahu's claim ■ In Netanyahu's Israel, lying pays | Opinion

Gantz, whose comments last month on a possible removal of West Bank settlements drew fire from Israel's right, said a government led by him would encourage settlement in the Golan Heights, as well as in Israel's north, in the West Bank and along the Gaza border.

On Thursday, after Israel's attorney general announced his decision to indict Netanyahu in three criminal cases pending a hearing, Gantz said that "sitting with Netanyahu in the same government cannot happen."

On Monday, he said, however, that his party expects to form a national unity government, which would include Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud. "Those who sink in the polls for any reason are starting to make up all sorts of stories about how 'they'll go with [Ta'al chairman Ahmad] Tibi' and 'they'll go with Kahane' – that's not true. We are calling for a unity government with all parties, with Likud who will join us, and anyone who is Zionist and sane and ready to join us."

Gantz was responding to the Likud claim that Gantz would unite with Arab-majority parties to form a coalition, under the banner of "It's Bibi or Tibi." Culture Minister Miri Regev told Kan Bet public radio earlier on Monday that "we need to focus on one thing: Do we want a left-wing government together with the Arabs and Ahmad Tibi?"

Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz told Kan Bet on Sunday that "things are very clear. We have an attempt to take advantage of the suspicions against the prime minister in order to topple the right and elevate the left into the government."   

On Sunday, Netanyahu claimed during a briefing for Likud ministers and lawmakers that Gantz participated in a memorial ceremony for Hamas terrorists. The event, though, did not honor Hamas terrorists as Netanyahu claimed, but was rather intended to bring the Israeli and Palestinian public closer together, according to the organizers. They presented it as a celebratory concert in partnership with Jews and Arabs, with the theme of the hope for dialogue and reconciliation.