Palestinians Warm to Gantz After Remarks on West Bank Settlements

Netanyahu's closest election rival told Israeli newspaper 2005 evacuation of Gaza settlers was 'a good decision,' adding: 'We need to enact its lessons elsewhere'

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas attends a joint news conference with Malta's President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca, in Ramallah, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank January 31, 2019.
REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's spokesman gave a cautious welcome on Wednesday to remarks by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's closest rival in the upcoming election suggesting openness to a future removal of settlements from the occupied West Bank. 

"It's encouraging, if he succeeds and he sticks to this opinion," Nabil Abu Rdeineh told Reuters after ex-general Benny Gantz, discussing accommodation with the Palestinians, told an Israeli newspaper he opposed dominating another people and suggested Israel might repeat its 2005 removal of Gaza settlers.

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Hosen L'Yisrael Chairman Gantz told Yedioth Ahronoth in an interview the Gaza disengagement "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. We need to take the lessons we learned there and enact them elsewhere."

Pointing to Gantz's comment, 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 Arab-majority parties.

In response, Hosen L'Yisrael said that "Netanyahu, who voted in favor of the disengagement, and [Culture Minister and then-IDF Spokswoman Miri] Regev, who touted it with a smile on her face, will not lecture us about diplomatic and security responsibility. A Gantz government will not take any unilateral steps related to evacuation of communities."

The Hayamin Hehadash party, led by Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, criticized Gantz on Twitter, writing, "We thank Gantz for removing the mask. Benny Gantz is outflanking [Labor Chairman Avi] Gabbay from the left and wants to expel more Jews from their homes during a unilateral disengagement from Judea and Samaria," referring to the biblical name of the West Bank.

In the interview, Gantz also said that Israel must not and does not seek to "rule over others." 

"The main question is one of security," Gantz said when asked about his relationship with fellow former army chief Moshe Ya'alon, whose Telem party has merged with Hosen L'Yisrael. Any dialogue "must safeguard Israel from a security standpoint. Now, there is a question of interests. We – even Bibi said so in the speech at Bar Ilan University – are not trying to rule over anyone else."