'Inexperienced Hypocrite'? Netanyahu Used to Call Gantz 'An Officer and a Gentleman'

A look back on the high praise Netanyahu had for Benny Gantz before they became political rivals

Ofer Aderet
Ofer Aderet
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and then-IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz meet at a guesthouse of the Friends of the IDF, Olga, Israel, April 6, 2012.
FILE PHOTO: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and then-IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz meet at a guesthouse of the Friends of the IDF, Olga, Israel, April 6, 2012.Credit: Avi Ohion / GPO
Ofer Aderet
Ofer Aderet

Likud’s list of attack points against Benny Gantz is long and varied. “Anyone who abandons a soldier on the battlefield could abandon an entire country,” “an inexperienced hypocrite,” “he wasn't a good chief of staff,” and of course, “he’s a leftist.” But a perusal of the Prime Minister’s Office's website shows plenty of praise of Gantz by Netanyahu.

The raves range from the time of his appointment as Israel Defense Forces chief of staff to his retirement, before the two became political rivals. Netanyahu has referred to Gantz as "an officer and a gentleman," not to mention the general's “seriousness, humanity, directness and professionalism.”

Netanyahu even expressed a hope that Gantz would return and contribute his skills and experience for the country's benefit.

Here are some key examples.

2011: The security cabinet approves Gantz's appointment as chief of staff

“Maj. Gen. Benny Gantz is an outstanding officer and an experienced commander. His experience is vast both in terms of operation and organization. He is endowed with all the qualities required to be an excellent commander of the Israel Defense Forces. This appointment will consolidate the IDF’s stability, which is always important, but all the more so in this period of deep turmoil now afflicting our region.”

2011: Changeover of chiefs of staff

“Benny, today you receive the baton as commander of the IDF. You have all the requirements for succeeding in this important mission. You have gone through a diversified career path as a field commander and at the General Staff. You know the army well and the army knows you well. You must find your own special path, combining quiet resolve, composure and a pleasant approach to achieving continuity and stability. Stability is especially important today because we’re living in a period of instability.”

2011: Gantz assumes the post of chief of staff

“Maj. Gen. Benny Gantz has taken the entire route that qualifies him to be the next commander of the Israel Defense Forces. He’s an experienced commander, he’s an outstanding officer with all the characteristics and experience necessary to be an excellent chief of staff.”

Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu hugs Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, Jerusalem, September 2015.Credit: Amos Ben Gershom/GPO

2012: Operation Pillar of Defense

“I would like first to praise the soldiers and commanders of the IDF, mainly its chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, who at this moment is leading the operation.”

2013: Gantz’s tenure extended as chief of staff

“Over the past three years Chief of Staff Gantz has led the IDF with impressive success against some of the most complex security challenges Israel has ever faced. Benny Gantz has led the IDF in a manner based on values, professionalism and striving for achievement.”

2014: Operation Protective Edge

“I want to express particular appreciation for the Minister of Defense, the chief of staff and the head of Southern Command, for our commanders and brave soldiers …. There is strong teamwork here, aimed at providing security to the state and its citizens.”

2014: Operation Protective Edge

“I’d like to extend particular appreciation to Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, who is leading the IDF with confidence.”

“This is the time to extend our appreciation and gratitude, in the name of Israel’s citizens, to the commanders and soldiers of the IDF, led by Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz. During these days of combat we are again witness to scenes of courage and bravery, determination and ethical behavior, action based on values and faith in the justice of our path.”

“Upon the establishment of the cease-fire, I can say that this is a major military achievement, as well as a major diplomatic achievement for the State of Israel. Hamas was hit hard and did not receive a single one of the conditions that it set for a cease-fire, not one. As prime minister of Israel, I hold the supreme responsibility for the security of Israel's citizens, and this is what guided my colleagues – Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon and IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz – during each stage of Operation Protective Edge. I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for the cooperation and the joint work for the security of Israel's citizens.”

2015: Gantz's term as chief of staff nears its end

“I wish to thank you for the long years of service for the benefit of the state’s security, particularly for the last four years in which you led the IDF, four years of unusual challenges, in a period of unprecedented regional turmoil, with states collapsing and terror organizations, mostly with Iranian support, entering through the cracks, with Iran trying to strangle us from several directions.

“During this period, you led IDF operations, overt and covert, near and far, in a professional manner, with resolve and responsibly. We’ve worked together during two operations on the Gaza front and on other fronts, including operations the public is unaware of. I want to thank you for your excellent service.

“I know that you leave behind an army that can meet all these challenges. One of them is unfolding before our eyes, with thousands of Hezbollah fighters in Syria also entering southern Syria, close to our border, guided by Iran. We’re aware of these challenges, and the army you leave behind can contend with them. I want to thank you for your service."

2015: The chief of staff changeover ceremony

“Benny, you’re ending 38 years of serving this country in the IDF. In my name and in the name of the cabinet and Israel’s citizens, I wish to thank you for your service, your contribution and your devotion to Israel’s security.

“We worked together, you, the defense minister and I, for endless hours over the last four years, trying to meet challenges, some of which threatened not only our security but our very existence. I met you and got to know you well during those times, and I saw your seriousness, humanity, directness and professionalism. I saw you during difficult moments, during times of mourning and sadness, as well as in times of elation and pride. You were always a human being and were always committed.

“We've discussed this many times – what is the issue, the important thing, the right thing to do for Israel’s security? We discussed it and decided, and then you carried out those decisions. The debate was always fertile, pointed, real and usually remained behind closed doors. But behind closed doors I saw you, to borrow a phrase, as an officer and a gentleman, as a warrior and a human being.

“For almost four decades you’ve been at the center of defense-related activities, and as a son of Holocaust survivors you understood that your role is not like that of a commander in other armies. We carry on our shoulders the burden of 'never again,' and the chief of staff carries the direct responsibility of maintaining the iron wall that preserves the State of Israel.

“You’ve led three known operations and endless unknown ones, or little-known ones, but three that the public and the world are aware of: Operation Brother's Keeper [aimed at returning abducted soldiers], Operation Pillar of Defense and Operation Protective Edge. You did so judiciously, responsibly, with determination and successfully, with us working as a team seeking the best outcome.

“I hope, Benny, that you can now devote time to your family and hobbies. I can’t tell you to go fly high on a motorbike, but you know what I mean. Do all the things you didn’t have time for as a senior commander, certainly not as chief of staff. I’m certain that after a break you’ll place your skills, talents and experience at the service of the people and state, and I wish you luck, Benny, on whatever road you take.”

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