Former Chief of Staff Benny Gantz presented Tuesday night a concrete alternative leadership to Benjamin Netanyahu. In an impressive speech, the chairman of the Hosen L’Yisrael party declared his candidacy for prime minister, and it appears that Netanyahu can expect a genuine battle for leadership of the country on April 9.
Gantz devoted a significant part of his speech to criticizing the Netanyahu government and promised to make a war on corruption a signal component of his leadership. He stated clearly: “The idea that a prime minister can rule after an indictment is served against him is ridiculous to me. It won’t happen.”
After comparing Netanyahu to Louis XIV of France, who had adopted the king’s declaration, “l’etat c’est moi,” Gantz made it clear that “the government that we will establish will be a statist government and not a royalist government.” Gantz didn’t spare Netanyahu’s inciteful politics from criticism. He promised to heal Israel’s divisions and to end the incitement against institutions of government. “In our statist government, there will be no attacks against the chief of staff, the police commissioner and the attorney general,” he said. “There will be no incitement against legal, cultural and media institutions. We will not fan hatred against half the people on the right or half the people on the left.”
In a part of his speech that referred to the security situation, Gantz maintained the militant line of the videos that he shared last week. He fired threats in every direction and criticized the Netanyahu government for approving the delivery of Qatari cash to the Gaza Strip.
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Anyone expecting an innovative diplomatic message was disappointed. Despite returning the word peace (“shalom”) to the public conversation, Gantz avoided mentioning the two-state solution. He presented a tough, hawkish line. Gantz promised to strengthen the settlement blocs and the Golan Heights, “from which we will never withdraw,” the Jordan Valley as the eastern border and a united Jerusalem as the “eternal” capital of Israel. Regarding the fate of the territories and the Palestinians, his presentation was reminiscent of Netanyahu’s Bar-Ilan speech, which he mentioned. “We will keep security in our hands in all the Land of Israel, but we will not allow millions of Palestinians living beyond the separation barrier to endanger our security and our identity as a Jewish state.” In other words, he was saying no to an independent Palestine and no to annexation.
Gantz was clear that his electoral partnership with Moshe Ya’alon was his first political partnership, and he promised that there will be others. “I will deepen the partnership with the Haredim, with the Arabs and with the Druze,” he stated. Let us hope that he will succeed in this mission. Let us hope that the heads of the Labor Party and of Yesh Atid will swallow their pride and join forces with Gantz. Israel needs a political upset the way that it needs oxygen.