Gantz to Speak at AIPAC: I Will End Netanyahu's Battle With U.S. Jews

Gantz vows to restore full U.S. support of Israel ahead of conference by pro-Israel Jewish lobby that is expected to be fraught with tensions

Benny Gantz, head of the Kahol Lavan alliance speaking in Tel Aviv in February 2019.
Tomer Appelbaum

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's biggest rival Benny Gantz, the chair of the Kahol Lavan alliance, confirmed Tuesday morning that he will address the annual conference of the Jewish-American lobby AIPAC at the end of March. 

Gantz is going to AIPAC to end the battle Netanyahu is leading between Israel and U.S. Jews, a statement by Kahol Lavan read.

The ex-Israel Defense Forces chief of staff is expected to hold a speech at the conference on March 25, a day before the Israeli premier speaks there.

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In a statement released by the alliance Gantz formed with former journalist Yair Lapid's Yesh Atid, the former army chief said that if he wins the election, Israel will regain the full support of the United States. He also pledged to strengthen the strategic alliance with Israel's ally in the political field as well as in the battle against terror. 

This won't be Gantz's first public appearance abroad as a main contender to the premiership ahead of the April 9 election in Israel. In February, Gantz spoke in a side auditorium at the Munich Security Conference, where he said that while he and Netanyahu disagreed on many things, "When Israel's security is under threat, there is no daylight between us. On this critical issue there is no right or left. There is no coalition or opposition."

The two political rivals' speeches are likely to add to the tension-fraught environment at the conference, where Netanyahu is usually warmly accepted but some say he will face a cold shoulder after a series of disagreement with Diaspora Jewry over the past year. 

FILE PHOTO: Netanyahu at the AIPAC meeting at the Washington Convention Center, March 4, 2014
AP

U.S. Jewish organizations lashed at the prime minister on Monday over his comments that Israel was "the nation-state of the Jewish people and it alone," remarks he made to rebuke an Israeli television host and were perceived as racist towards Israel's Arab population.  

The host and actress, Rotem Sela, criticized Culture Minister Miri Regev for saying that Gantz could lead Israel down a dangerous path if he wins the election and tries to form a governing coalition with the bloc of Arab parties. 

The debate, which began on Instagram, sparked a controversy that stirred Israel and even resulted in President Reuven Rivlin rebuking Netanyahu. The president commented Monday that there were "no second-class voters" and "first-class citizens" in response to Netanyahu's comments.