Israeli left-wing leaders condemned Benny Gantz on Tuesday, saying he "fell into the right’s trap" following his remarks that he would push for annexation of the Jordan Valley if elected prime minister on March 2.
Labor-Gesher-Meretz chairman Amir Peretz, speaking at an election rally in Be’er Sheva, said that Gantz's Kahol Lavan might "jump into the arms of the far-right" if the left-wing slate doesn't get enough votes.
Peretz also stressed that the question of annexing the Jordan Valley "should be decided in negotiations and as part of a comprehensive agreement."
Earlier on Tuesday, Gantz said that he would work to advance Israel's annexation of the Jordan Valley after Israel's election.
"If Kahol Lavan decided they want to be right-wing, let them have it. If we’re big enough, we would be the ones to steer and decide the character of the next government," Peretz said.
Meretz's Nitzan Horowitz, who joined forces with Peretz's party to form the united left-wing slate, said: "Unfortunately, Benny Gantz and Kahol Lavan fell into the right’s trap… In our campaign and in the government we’ll be part of, we would lead a clear political line, [calling for] a political initiative for peace and security."
Peretz also addressed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu corruption cases, saying he "can’t serve as a role model and as a symbol for my children."
According to Peretz, "the legal debate is very important … but the moral one is even more important. It’s not [only] a question of whether it’s illegal or not."
Also on Tuesday, Netanyahu spoke at the Likud campaign launch event in Jerusalem, vowing once more to "apply Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and the Northern Dead Sea … without delay and without any veto of [senior Joint List lawmaker] Ahmad Tibi. Not only will we not uproot anyone, we will apply Israeli law to all Israeli settlements without exception."
Netanyahu also claimed that he "will bring historic peace agreements with other Arab countries."
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud abbas responded Tuesday to Netanyahu and Gantz's declarations on the annexation of the Jordan Valley, saying it will eradicate the foundations on which the political process is built, and put the entire region into a dangerous new phase of instability.
Defense Minister Naftali Bennett said earlier on Tuesday that Israel would apply sovereignty over the West Bank and the Jordan Valley in response to remarks made by Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh that the PA would act to have the distinction between Area A, B and C in the Palestinian territories annulled.
Israel's two mainstream left-wing parties, Labor-Gesher and Meretz, announced Monday that they would run together in Israel's March 2 general election. Gantz welcomed the merger and said that Israel needs a party left to the centrist Kahol Lavan.
Horowitz had previously said: "So Gantz is also for annexation… If this is Kahol Lavan's answer to the right's hollow campaign promises – it shows a lack of confidence. If this is actually his intention, to unilaterally annex 40 percent of the territories and destroy any chance of an agreement – it shows a lack of common sense. I don't know what's worse. One way or another, it's clear that there's nothing for central-left voters in Kahol Lavan."
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