Likud Blasts Gantz for Saying Retrieval of Missing Soldier's Body Was Political Spin

Gantz was heard saying in an interview the opposite, denying that the timing of the operation to return Zachary Baumel's body was linked to the upcoming election

Benny Gantz at a Kahol Lavan campaign rally, Ashkelon, April 4, 2019.
\ Gil Cohen-Magen

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party accused Thursday his main rival in the upcoming general election, Benny Gantz, of saying the premier was using the return of the missing Israeli soldier's body to score political points.

However, in the interview on Army Radio to which the Likud was referring, Gantz was asked whether he thought the timing of the feat had anything to do with the upcoming election, and said: "Absolutely not. Netanyahu would spin any other topic, sadly."

On Wednesday, the Israeli military announced the return after 37 years of the remains of Zachary Baumel, one of three soldiers missing since the Sultan Yaaqub battle, which took place during the first Lebanon War in 1982.

>> Read more: Missing soldier's father felt betrayed by Israel. He died before the body was found ■ Secret burial place, intel feat, and a 3rd country: Behind the retrieval of the Israeli soldier's body | Amos Harel ■ The timing is no coincidence: The world mobilizes for Netanyahu's campaign | Analysis

Zachary Baumel.
IDF Spokesperson's Unit

In the same interview, Gantz said: "I'm glad Netanyahu is using this for a political spin, but I'm much gladder that Zachary Baumel has returned to the grave in Israel and to his family."

After the interview, the Likud published a statement saying: "On the morning when the nation is coming together for the news of his [Baumel's] return, Gantz says bringing Baumel back is a political spin – there is no limit to the lowly discourse, he should be ashamed of himself."

Also Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin revealed the his country's military, in collaboration with Syria, found Baumel's body. Putin made the revelation alongside Netanyahu, who is in Moscow for a snap state visit five days before Israel goes to the ballot.