Netanyahu Takes Aim at Rival Gantz, Says He'd Pull Israel Out of West Bank

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, February 3, 2019.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, February 3, 2019.Credit: \ RONEN ZVULUN/ REUTERS

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his biggest rival in the upcoming election, Benny Gantz, traded barbs on Wednesday after the latter defended the 2005 disengagement from Gaza in an interview with Yedioth Ahronoth published that morning.

Responding to the interview, Netanyahu claimed Gantz said he would pull out of the West Bank, too.

"The problem is that Abu Mazen is also pleased because Benny Gantz said he would conduct another disengagement in Judea and Samaria, and Abu Mazen wished him luck in the election," the prime minister said, referring to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. 

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Netanyahu went on to say that "the essence of the election is this: a left-wing government headed by Benny Gantz or a Likud government headed by me." Netanyahu's remarks are part of an attempt to paint Gantz, who insists he is "neither right nor left" but a centrist, as a supporter of left-wing policies. 

Benny Gantz launches his party's campaign in Tel Aviv, January 29, 2019.Credit: \ AMIR COHEN/ REUTERS

Gantz's Hosen L'Yisrael party issued a swift response to Netanyahu's remarks, writing: "You expel Jews. You pay Hamas protection money. Your time is up – we're moving on."

In the interview with Yedioth Ahronoth, Gantz said the 2005 disengagement from Gaza "was a legal process, a decision made by Israel's government and carried out by the army and the settlers in a painful way, but a good one."

Gantz did not refer to the West Bank but did add: "We need to take the lessons we learned there and enact them elsewhere." Gantz also said that Israel must not and does not seek to "rule over others."

After his comments, Hosen L'Yisrael said that "a Gantz government will not take any unilateral steps related to evacuation of communities."

Shortly after the publication of the interview, Netanyahu wrote on Facebook that Gantz sought to establish a left-wing government by preventing the right from obtaining a majority bloc, with the help of majority-Arab parties.

Abbas's spokesman gave a cautious welcome to Gantz's remarks, telling Reuters: "It's encouraging, if he succeeds and he sticks to this opinion."

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