'I'm Not After Netanyahu's Head': Gantz Defends Decision on Corruption Inquiry

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Alternative Prime Minister and Defense Minister Benny Gantz in the Knesset, Jerusalem, November 2020
Alternative Prime Minister and Defense Minister Benny Gantz in the Knesset, Jerusalem, November 2020Credit: Oren Ben Hakon

The establishment of a commission of inquiry into the so-called submarine affair is "a serious matter that is worthy of examination,”  Defense Minister Benny Gantz said on Monday, as he rejected Likud accusations that the corruption inquiry is politcally motivated, and claimed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was putting his trial in three other corruption cases ahead of the country. 

Over the past few months, Gantz had considered establishing the inquiry commission and also examined alternatives. “In the end, it is possible to find a political context for it, but beyond the political motives, it is a very serious matter that is worth being examined. I spoke about it first with the prime minister and told him that I am not after his head, but after the matter itself," he told Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth in an interview. He added that he hoped the commission would be "balanced and not harsh."

As for complaints from Likud that he was acting out of political considerations, Gantz said that this is to be expected. “Let’s say, why isn’t there a budget – because it isn’t necessary or because it’s political? Why aren’t there appointments – because it’s not needed or because it’s political?” The government needs one of two possibilities: Either a budget and a functioning government, or to have an election," added Gantz.

In response to a question as to whether he would support dissolving the Knesset before the deadline for passing the state budget on December 23, Gantz said that he “was not willing to bear the responsibility of a nonfunctioning government. The country is operating today on a low flame because Netanyahu is busy with other things. Netanyahu is thinking first about his trial.”

On the subject of the next election, Gantz said that he does not intend on running in a party headed by his former partner, MK Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid). “I don’t see any such possibility. I intend on running as the head of Kahol Lavan. Yair Lapid will run at the head of Yesh Atid. I am convinced that the way will be found for cooperation for the good of Israel.”

Minister Michael Biton of Kahol Lavan said on Monday that the party will not enable the government to continue without approving a state budget. The unity government’s time is almost up, he told Army Radio. “The hourglass of the government stands at about two or three weeks. If Likud does not get its act together and does not deliver a budget for 2021, this government does not have a right to exist… About two weeks is the critical time for the 2021 budget to come to the cabinet and within a month it will come for Knesset approval,” said Biton.

It is clear the election is imminent, said MK Shlomo Karhi (Likud) about the commission of inquiry in an interview with the Kan public broadcaster on Monday. “All they are trying to do here is to gather anti-Bibi votes.” Karhi said he supports dismantling the government and calling new elections, and he has already submitted a bill to revoke the rotation agreement with Gantz.

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