The views and actions of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his main rival in the April 9 election, former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz, are the same, the head of the Israel Resilience Party said in a speech Sunday at the Munich Security Conference.
Gantz did not speak in the main hall, where Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif had spoken minutes before.
Instead, he spoke in a side room, mostly to Israeli reporters, in what was his first address in English and abroad since entering politics two months ago.
“It is no secret that Prime Minister Netanyahu is my political rival, and we disagree on many issues,” Gantz said. “But make no mistakes – we are both devoted sons of the same nation. 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.
“When it comes to defending Israel, we are united. I am standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Prime Minister Netanyahu in the fight against Iran’s aggression. I am certain he will do the same when I will be the prime minister of Israel.”
Gantz promised that as prime minister, he would not let Iran take over Syria, Lebanon or the Gaza Strip, or obtain nuclear weapons. Reacting to Zarif’s speech, he asked participants not to be fooled by him, saying that as chief of staff of the IDF, he saw Iran’s evildoings.
“Iran threatens Europe, not just Israel,” he said. Noting that he was speaking as the son of Holocaust survivors, he said that: “[We,] the Jewish people and Jewish state, will always protect ourselves by ourselves.”
Gantz called on Europe to designate Hezbollah a terrorist organization, saying inaction on that call was unacceptable.
“Hezbollah is the most dangerous terror organization in the world, and has more firepower than most NATO countries,” he said
Gantz vowed that if he is elected, there will be a regional cooperation initiative in the Middle East.
“Only a strong and secure Israel can achieve a lasting peace,” he said. “In many ways, Arabs and Israelis are closer than ever before, and Arab countries are starting to realize that Israel is part of the solution, not the problem.”
Netanyahu took a jab at his political opponent during Sunday’s cabinet meeting, saying that Gantz was “hitchhiking” on Netanyahu’s own fervent opposition to the Iranian nuclear deal.
“For years I have vigorously led the opposition to the dangerous nuclear agreement with Iran. I had to face the whole world, and also some of the heads of the security branches in Israel, who said that the agreement is not terrible and that it is possible to see the cup half-full. But I insisted, and my insistence brought about a historic change of course,” Netanyahu said.
“Now there are all kinds of hitchhikers riding the wave,” he added. “But the public knows how to distinguish between true leadership and amateurish imitations.”
Netanyahu canceled his own participation in the Munich conference.
The Shas Party criticized Gantz for flying to Munich on Shabbat, saying that Gantz’s lack of respect for the day of rest was disrespectful to Shabbat observers.Herb Keinon contributed to this report.
Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>